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The only significant use of spinel is as a gemstone. However, in that use it is spectacular. Spinel excels in color, luster, hardness, and durability. It is appropriate for almost any use in jewelry.

Spinel occurs in colors that span the spectrum: red, pink, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, and purple. White, black, gray and colorless specimens are also found. Three colors are especially popular: red and blue (the colors that imitate ruby and sapphire), and an orange-red color known as “flame spinel.” Starting in the 2020s, an unusual interest in gray spinel began.

Gem-quality red and blue spinels are very rare. They are much less abundant than rubies and sapphires of similar quality and color. Even with equivalent beauty and greater rarity, their prices are much lower than ruby and sapphire.

The lower price is an example of how rarity has not set the price. Spinel is not as valuable because it is not as popular. Spinel has not been strongly promoted by the gem and jewelry trade because its supply is limited and unreliable.

Occasionally an exceptional spinel or a jewelry item of historical significance is sold at auction for a very high price. One necklace containing eleven bright red spinels, totaling 1,132 carats and inscribed by Mughal emperors, sold for over $5 million.

Spinel is a gem that has been confused with ruby and sapphire for over 1000 years. Several of the most spectacular spinels ever discovered were mounted as “crown jewels” and other “jewelry of significance” under the assumption that they were rubies or sapphires.

Spinel occurs in the same bright red and blue colors as rubies and sapphires. Spinel forms in the same rock units, under the same geological conditions, and is found in the same gravels. Found among rubies and sapphires, it is not surprising that ancient gem traders misidentified spinel.

Two thousand years ago, gem traders did not know that spinel and corundum (the mineral of ruby and sapphire) have different chemical compositions and different crystal structures. Instead, gem traders thought that every bright red gemstone was a “ruby” and every deep blue gemstone was a “sapphire.” As a result, lots of red spinels are now in very important jewelry collections based on their incorrect identification as ruby.

The most famous example of a spinel being identified as ruby is a 170-carat bright red spinel named “The Black Prince’s Ruby.” The first known owner of this beautiful stone was Abu Sa’id, the Moorish Prince of Granada, in the 14th century. The stone passed through several owners and eventually made its way into the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, where it is mounted immediately above the famous Cullinan II diamond.

Spinel Characteristics

  • Hardness: 8
  • Color: red, orange, pink, purple, blue, black
  • Transparency:
  • Chemical composition: MgAl2O4
  • Crystal system:
  • Crystal habit:
  • Refractive index: 1.718

Birthstone Spinel

Spinel has recently been added to the official list of birthstones by the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) and Jewelers of America (JA) and will now share the month of August with the stunning yellow/green gemstone Peridot. This is the third recent addition to the modern list since it was created in 1912.

A favorite among dealers and collectors due to its wonderful brilliance and sparkle, hardness and wide range of stunning colors.  Known mainly for its beautiful rich reds, Spinel can also be found in many other gorgeous pastel shades of purple and pink such as those discovered in Umba in Tanzania in the late 1990’s which are very unique. Recently found is a striking hot pink tinged with orange from Burma. Wonderful shades of blue have also been discovered, for example Cobalt Spinel, found in Sri Lanka and Vietnam. 

Like Garnet and Diamond, Spinel is singly refractive and has the same physical properties in all crystal directions, it has octahedron crystals. Spinel also has a similar structure to Ruby and is found in many of the same locations, leading to great confusion in gemstone history as they have often been confused. Ruby is aluminum oxide, while Spinel is magnesium aluminum oxide formed when impure limestone is altered by heat and pressure. Both red/ pink Spinel and Ruby get their reddish color from impurities of chromium.

The source of both gems is said to be Myanmar, Burma. The Burmese have always recognized Spinel as its own species, but beyond, Spinel was referred to as “Balas Ruby” for hundreds of years. It wasn’t until 1783 when Mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle identified it as a different mineral altogether. In Ancient times, some mines produced some exceptionally large crystals, some were collected by kings and emperors and became part of there treasured crowned jewels. Some of these “Rubies” are now actually Spinels. 

Meaning of Spinel

Spinel is a popular stone in crystal healing. It is believed to foster your positive qualities. It is often associated with internal struggle and psychological trauma. Different spinel colors are believed to have different meanings and heal different mental struggles. Spinel is especially connected to renewal of energy.

The most popular spinel color, red, is believed to give you strength and courage to face your fears. On the other hand, blue spinel is thought to be useful in improving communication.

Spinel can help in the treatment of infertility. It can help with the purification and detoxification process.This stone can also calm the nervous system.

Spinel can give good support during the recovery period from illness or trauma. It can also reduce fatigue and replenish diminishing energy levels.

It can dispel nervousness and anxiety. It’s known to alleviate feelings of soreness and physical swelling.

This stone also has a calming effect on all kinds of physical inflammations.

It can aid in the treatment of joints, muscles, and bones. It can also be beneficial to the gums, teeth, spine, and the whole body!

It can support weight loss efforts by increasing physical power and endurance and regulating metabolic functions.

Spinel will give insight into your material or financial problems, and it will give you the physical strength to keep going and follow through.

Anyone who wears this stone will remain completely focused on accomplishing their goals.

It’s an excellent stone to have when you have low self-esteem or low self-confidence because you will have stronger faith in all that you can do and achieve!

Black Spinel stone is also a crystal that helps tremendously in standing your ground and remaining free from negative influences.

That includes those people who only ever seem to criticize your ambitions, and not in a constructive way.

Black is a very protective color in most crystals, including this one. It will absorb negativity and prevent it from finding a home within you.

This means that you will be plagued by fewer doubts when moving ahead with those projects you know will lead to wealth, success, promotion or even running your own successful business.

Spinel Enhancement

It should be noted that for those stones present in the marketplace, treated spinel is not commonplace., and they are only rarely encountered by the major labs around the world. However, there is a general increase in the attempts to improve spinel quality and color, utilizing a variety of treatment practices.

Clarity Enhancement

The practice of filling fissures to reduce their visibility and improve the apparent clarity of a gemstone is probably the single most prevalent treatment applied to gemstones. Oils and other materials may be introduced into a fissure, thereby making that fissure less reflective and reducing its visibility. As a result for all colors of spinel, the filling of fissures is going to be the most common form of treatment or enhancement that one may encounter. Detection of clarity enhancement is most readily accomplished with magnification, using a microscope or jeweler’s loupe. An iridescence is generally visible along a filled fissure. In addition, areas of higher relief may also be evident where the filling of a fissure was incomplete or the filler has been partially removed.

Heat Treatment

Throughout most of the history of gemmology, it was thought that heating did not improve the quality of spinel.

Spinel Imitation

Synthetic spinel is produced by using flux-grown or flame-fusion method as synthetic corundum in a variety of fine colors. In chemical and physical properties nearly identical with true spinel. Widely used as gemstones and as imitation such as imitation of lapis lazuli and moonstone. Also used to imitate ruby, sapphire, diamond, aquamarine, tourmaline, alexandrite, zircon, etc.

Cutting of Spinel

Spinel can be cut into a range of shapes and styles, such as round, oval, cushion and pear. The best way to cut a spinel is by faceting. Because spinel has a high refractive index and dispersion, it is a brilliant and fiery stone. Expert cutting will emphasize these factors and maximize the beauty of the stone.

Because spinel is very rare, most cutters choose the cut and size in order to use as much of the rough as possible. This is why many spinel stones on the market are not cut to standard sizes.

Care Instruction

Spinel ranks 8 on the Mohs scale, making it quite a hard and durable gemstone.  Spinel does not handle heat well which can cause the color to fade, so keep your spinel jewelry away from heat sources.

To maintain the shine and luster of spinel, wash it when needed using soap and warm water. Once washed, make sure the soap is rinsed off and the stone is dried thoroughly. It is not recommended that you use ultrasonic cleaners as these can damage a spinel, especially if it contains inclusions.

When storing spinel, wrap it in a cotton or velvet cloth. This keeps it free from dust and from being scratched by other items. It can get scratched by harder items such as diamonds and sapphires, if stored together.

Keep spinel (and any gemstone) away from chemicals such as harsh detergents, bleach and cosmetics. It is always better to take off any gemstone jewelry when handling chemicals or engaging in outdoor/physical activities.