Spinel gemstones - Available in many different colors!
The Spinel is a gemstone that is usually associated with men, thanks to its strong and robust characteristics. For example, in the battle of Agincourt, fought in 1415, King Henry V, was struck in the head by a battle axe, and his life was saved by the “Black Prince’s ruby, which was set in the helmet. The spinel is a strong stone, and the strength surpasses even that of the metals in which it is set. Over the centuries, people have mistaken spinels for rubies, and the converse is also true. You can imagine how shocked the queen on England was, when she got the news that the ruby in the crown jewels, which she loved so much, was not actually a ruby, but a spinel. You would have surely hated to be the person who delivered this bad piece of news. The Black Prince’s Ruby, earned itself a place in history, and is now placed in the British Imperial State Crown. Oddly enough, even Henry V though that the stone was a ruby, but it turned out to be a spinel weighing in at 170 carats.
Some interesting facts about spinels
In is a known fact that many of the so-called rubies found in the British crown jewels are actually spinels. Consider the Kuwait Ruby, which is also one of the corn jewels; this is not a ruby, but a spinel weighing in at an unbelievable 352 carats. Until the late 19th century, nobody was able to tell the difference between a spinel and a ruby, and the reasons why this was so, are easy to understand. The two gemstones look alike and they have similar physical attributes apart from one major one; spinels and rubies are very much alike, and are even found in the same localities in the mines. They have the same beautiful attributes that mesmerize the eyes, and their structure and chemistry is the same; both even get their red color from the presence of chromium. However, the one distinction that sets them apart is the fact that spinels are softer than rubies on the Mohs scale. A spinel has a value of 8 while a ruby has a value of 9. The spinels have a pinkish fluorescence when they are viewed in natural light during the day, and they also have a lower refractive index, as compared to rubies. There is no small wonder, that people call the spinel. “The Master of Disguise”.
The funny thing, though, is the fact that the red spinel is rarer than the ruby; however, they have one thing that makes them as popular as rubies; they are found in larger sizes. In ancient history, the large red spinels were known as the Balas Rubies, and they got this name because they were mined from the Northern Afghanistan region of Badakshan, which is still mined for gemstones. In history, no other region has produced bigger spines than this one. The stones mined from these mines were owned by some of the most renown historical characters; Peter the Great from Russia, Henry VIII of England and the Mongol Conqueror.
The naming of spinels
The crystals of a spinel are shaped like the thorns of a red rose bush, and the name is thought to have been derived from the Latin word Spina, which means Thorn. Another reason why the name was thought to be apt, was the fact that the vivid red colors resembled that of the roses found in the English Rose Garden. It is the impurities in pure spinel, which is white, which gives it the various colors that gemstone lovers adore. The main elements which provide these colors are Cobalt, Chromium, Vanadium, and Iron.
This is the reason why you find spinels in more colors than the lovely ruby red that people love. The other colors include a fascinating blue, purple and pink. The spinels mined in Burma have a fascinating vivid hot pink which is highlighted by hints of orange.
Most spinels do not have any prefixes, but they do have a number of names used in the trade to tell them apart. The flame spinel is also known as the Rubicell, and this is due to the fact that it has a surprisingly beautiful orange to orange red colors. The Gahnite is also referred to as the Zinc Spinel, and it has blue to bluish green colors. The Ceylonite, also referred to as the Pleonaste, has an opaque clarity and is dark green in color.
The History and Mythology of spinels
This is a stone that was recently recognized as a gemstone, and therefore has very few myths associated to it. Legend says that it has powers which were used by alchemists and sorcerers alike. They were said to wear it in order to protect themselves from any dangers associated with fire. The magnetic mineral Magnetite can also be found in the stone, and it was said to have been used as a navigation tool in the past.
The Assistant Curator of Meteorites at the American Museum of Natural History, Denton Ebel, did a study, in 2005, at the University of Chicago, Together with a Professor of Geophysical Science known as Lawrence Grossman, which found that the spinels in some places were actually formed after an asteroid hot the earth some 65 million years ago; this is the asteroid that is said to have wiped out all dinosaurs from the planet.
As mentioned earlier, some of the most famous rubies in the history of the world were actually spinels. The Black Prince’s Ruby, which has a great size of 170 carats, The 361 carat Timur Ruby, now in the possession of Queen Elizabeth and which has all the names of the former Mughal Emperors, who previously owned it engraved on its surface, and many more, were all spinels and not rubies. This fact has led to the spinel being historically dubbed as an impostor of rubies.
In its own right, the spinel is a treasured gemstone amongst dealers and collectors alike. It has a vitreous luster and great brilliance, not to mention that it is tough and durable. This is a great stone to set as a gemstone since it does not need a lot of care. Spinels are found in Tanzania, Madagascar, India, Burma and Sri Lanka. They can also be found in Russia, Sweden, United States, Turkey and Australia.
There are spinel gemstones which are made in the laboratory as birthstone rings and many people think of synthetic stones when they hear the word spinel, but this is a misnomer; there are natural spinels, which are very valuable. Although not as highly priced as they rubies which they imitate so well.