Mineral: Metal Oxide
Hardness: 7.5 – 8
Birthstone: August & Anniversary: 22nd
Spinel is a rare gemstone that is often mistaken for other gems— most famously corundum (ruby and sapphire). Two of the most famous “rubies” in the world are, in fact, spinel:the Black Prince’s Ruby (170 carats and the Timur ruby (361 carats). Both are in the Crown Jewels of England.
This confusion is partly due to the fact that spinels were once called “Balas rubies” due to the location from which they were mined (Balascia, the ancient name for the Badakhshan region in Afghanistan). In fact, Spinel was only identified as a distinct mineral species in 1783.
Spinel comes in a variety of colors, though most common is red. Blue, pink, purple, yellow, dark green, and black spinel exist, but good quality gems are rare. Rarest of all are colorless and natural color-changing spinel.
Spinels are known for their clarity, brightness, directness, and reflectivity. They are capable of breaking white light into spectral hues, or “fire,” which might have given spinel its name: from the Greek spinter, or “spark.” Another possible root is from the Latin spinella, or “little thorn,” in reference to the sharp points on its crystals.
At 500 carats, one of the world’s largest red spinels is the unfaceted gemstone in the Iranian Crown Jewels called the “Samarian Spinel.” It has been inscribed on the back with the name of its previous owner: the great Indian Mughal gem collector Jahangir (d. 1627 BC), an inscription also found on the back of the Timur ruby that gives both significant pedigrees.
Spinel comes from many places, but Burma and Sri Lanka are the most well known. Gem-quality spinel comes from Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Brazil, Australia, and Europe.
Considered to be a soothing, calming stone, it is said to relieve stress and encourage healing. Different colors promote different things, though the colors work with the chakra system. For example, red is reputed to enhance vitality, green and pink are thought to encourage love and compassion, purple is known to work for spiritual development, and yellow can be utilized to enhance the intellect.