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Spinel, not to be confused with ruby !

by Julie MIALET 08 Jul 2019

A beautiful colored gem generally red, pink, orange or purplish.



It is a magnesium aluminate. Spinel often grows in the same deposits as rubies, which is why they were confused for a long time.

Like corundum, spinel has a good hardness, 8 on the Mohs scale.

In addition to Myanmar (formerly Burma), which is well known for its orange-red varieties, spinel is mined in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Afghanistan, Brazil, Turkey, the United States and Nigeria.

The origin of the word spinel is unknown. It may come from Latin or from a Greek word meaning "sparkle" in reference to the brilliant orange-red color of some crystals.

Many of the "rubies" found on royal crowns are actually spinels.

One of the most fascinating gems in the world is the "Timur ruby", a 361 carat red spinel with a cabochon cut. The names of the various owners are engraved on it. This stone is currently owned by Queen Elizabeth the IInd.

"Rubis du Timur"


Another historic spinel that is part of the Crown Jewels of England is the famous "Black Prince's Ruby". This cabochon with an estimated weight of 170 carats was found on the war helmet of Henry V during the battle of Azincourt in 1415.

"Black Prince's Ruby", crown of the United Kingdom


A faceted red spinel of more than 400 carats that belonged to Empress Catherine II of Russia is now part of the Kremlin treasure.

Spinel owes its color to chromium for the red to orange stones, manganese for the purple and iron for the blue variety.

Sometimes a color changing variety is found, this is the "alexandrite spinel effect" whose color changes from a light blue-gray in daylight to a light purple under artificial light.

An extremely rare and small variety is the very attractive blue cobalt spinel, sought after by collectors. The deposit of cobalt blue spinel is located in Vietnam in the Luc Yen mine.

Cobalt Blue Spinel


Although in the past, large spinels have been available on the market, cut stones of more than ten carats and with beautiful colors are very rare today.

The most popular colors in spinel are intense red to purple-red and deep pink with an orange tinge. As a result, spinel prices are very high. Also, like ruby, Burmese red spinel is the most sought after color.

Burmese red Spinel


Generally speaking, spinels are less included than corundum and visible inclusions greatly reduce their value.

Many commercial stones or stones cut near the mining sites tend to be flat, this is because the finest crystals are found in the form of flattened octahedra or macles.

The most important criteria to determine the quality of a stone is its color.

And don't forget, all stones are fragile! even diamonds ....


If you are interested in spinel, don’t hesitate to discover what les Pierres de Julie have to offer in the store…

We are also available for any free expertise of your spinel jewelry, for that you can send an email with your photos to

Whether you're interested in buying a piece of jewellery or a stone, a free jewelry appraisal or jewelry resale, Pierres de Julie welcomes you to its Parisian boutique in the Village Suisse, a stone's throw from the Ecole Militaire and the Esplanade des Invalides.

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