Spinel is a beautiful stone that comes in many colors. It is often thought of as a red stone that long ago was mistaken for ruby. Unlike garnet, it can exactly match the color of a perfect ruby.
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by Margaret Burgon Klemp
The spinel almost became a shadow gemstone. The red spinel was often mistaken for a rich, rare ruby. The famous Timur Ruby and The Black Prince's Ruby hid their secret for hundreds of years until scientists using more modern technology learned the truth. They were both spinels and not rubies. For some time the spinel was almost put on a shelf, and not much attention was paid to it. However, interest in it was resurrected, and today it has its own unique place among gemstones.
Like its' close neighbors---the ruby and the sapphire most spinels are found in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. They were first created in grainy dolomite and calcite marbles, and then formed in pegmatite that lay within a crystalline schist. A schist is a metamorphic crystalline rock layered and divided along approximately parallel planes. Pegmatite is a coarse type of granite that can be found in dikes or veins. These rocks were originally formed by molten residues, and contain the main components of quartz and feldspar. During the weathering process the rocks that became spinels were enriched by placer deposits. There are two types of placer deposits: loose placers and rich placers. The loose placers are actually washed together in sands, clay, gravel and other various types of rubble, and those stones that have a high resistance to weathering end up in river beds or valley floors. Rich placers actually occur in a given area rather than being moved by other elements. Spinels were enriched by compounds of magnesia and alumina. The reason they did not become rubies is because the magnesia in the rock was spent.
The red spinel is the only gemstone that can line up next to the ruby. The color scale goes from pink to blood red, and this scale includes spinels are pink with tinges of orange. The red colors are possible because quantities of chromium can replace the aluminum. There are also purples spinels, and those colors range from purple to blue and blue-green and then move into inky color ranges. In these cases the iron, titanium and zinc in the rock replaces magnesium to produce the colors.
A good many spinels contain inclusions and flaws which serve the purpose as identifiers that prove authenticity. This includes rutile needles that produce 3 and 6 rayed stars on the surface of the stones.
Contributing factors that interest collectors is that the spinel is easy to cut, and can withstand high temperatures without changing its color, and a spinel's ability to exchange foreign color elements for hereditary ones. Recently, and new type of spinel has been discovered. It is called the cobalt spinel which was found in Sri Lanka. It actually does not have anything to do with cobalt, but it got the name from a silvery, midnight blue color that was widely known in the Middle Ages. The blue spinel comes in gray blue and mellow violet blue colors instead of the delicate blue hues of the corundums.
The spinel is emerging today from the shadows to find its own place in the light.
Gemstones: Symbols of Beauty and Power, Eduard Gubelin and Franz-Xaver Erni, Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona
Gems in Myth, Legend and Lore Revised Edition , Bruce G. Knuth, Jewelers Press, Thornton, Colorado
Birthstone Months with Spinel
Anniversary Gemstone for Spinel
Spinel is the anniversary gemstone for the 22nd year of marriage.
Spinel Jewelry Jokes
What gemstone loves swing dancing??