GEM & JEWELRY ARTICLE

Spinel - The New August Birthstone

Spinel was recently named by the AGTA as the new birthstone for August. A favorite among dealers and collectors due to its wonderful brilliance and sparkle, read on to learn more about this gorgeous gemstone.

Nicky Thomas

Gemstone & Jewelry
Style & Trends Editor


  • 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.

    Spinel smaller.jpg
    Faceted African Spinel From The Rare Gemstone Company

    “At certain moments in history, when there is a strong call from gem enthusiasts to expand the list of official birthstones, Jewelers of America believes in recognizing the importance of historically significant gemstones and giving gemstone lovers a choice that suits their preferences,” 
    said JA President and CEO David Bonaparte.

     AGTA CEO Doug Hucker said, “Ancient gemstone merchants revered Spinel, and it was widely sought after by royalty. It was then known as ‘balas ruby.’ It wasn’t until the late 18th century that we developed the technology acumen necessary to distinguish spinel as a separate mineral from ruby. We are very excited to announce it as the newest member of the official birthstone list.” 


    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. 

    Did you know that, the Burmese believe that because Spinel is so perfect, they refer to it as “Nat Thwe” or “polished by the spirits”

    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.

    octahedron crystals.jpg

    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. 


    FAMOUS EXAMPLES INCLUDE

     “The Black Prince’s Ruby” A 170 carat crimson red cabochon Spinel set into the cross pattee in the Imperial State Crown in the British Crown Jewels. The stone is one of the oldest parts of the crown Jewels. It first appeared in historical records of fourteenth-century Spain, and has been owned by a succession of Moorish and Spanish Kings before Edward, Prince of Wales, the “Black Prince”, received the stone in 1367 as payment for a battle victory.

     Black Princes Ruby.jpg

    The stone was not actually set into the Imperial State Crown until 1685 for the coronation of King James 2nd. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2nd also wore the crown for her was coronation in June 1953 and she wears it annually at the Opening of Parliament. The crown is currently on display in the Tower of London. 

    “The Timur Ruby” An un-faceted, unpolished 361 carat red Spinel presented as a gift to Queen Victoria by The East India Company in 1851 and set into a necklace by Garrards in 1853 as part of the British Crown Jewels and named after the ruler Timur (or Tamerlane) the great tartar conqueror. Until 1851, it was regarded as the largest known “Ruby” in the world. It is one of the most historically significant jewels that the Queen actually owns and is currently ranked as second in size behind the 398.72 carat Spinel in the Imperial Russian Crown.

     The Timur Ruby.jpg

     The necklace has never actually been worn by any British Royal. Nevertheless, it is one of their greatest heirlooms. This stone has a very interesting and complicated history, parts of it can actually be derived from the stone itself, for some of the owners inscribed their names and/or additional inscriptions on it. This too, is currently on display in the Tower of London.

    The Imperial Crown of Russia or Great Imperial Crown sports a stunning 398.72-carat red Spinel, believed to be the largest red Spinel in the world. It was worn by the Emperors of Russia until the abolition of the monarchy in 1917. It was commissioned by Catherine the Great in 1763 for her coronation and made by the court jeweler Ekart and Jérémie Pauzié using the Spinel from the historic stones of the Russian Diamond Collection. The Spinel was brought to Russia by Nicholas Spafary the Russian envoy to China from 1675 to 1678 and was last used at the coronation of Nicholas II. The crown is currently on display in the Moscow Kremlin Armory State Diamond Fund.

     Imperial crown of Russia.jpg


     OTHER FAMOUS SPINELS INCLUDE

     Samarian Spinel – at 500 carats, this Spinel in the Iranian Crown Jewels is thought to be the largest “fine” Spinel in the world.

     Samarian Spinel.jpg

    Carew Spinel – an un-faceted 133.5 carat stone, inscribed with the names of the Mughal Emperors. Bequeathed to the Victoria & Albert Museum by Lady Carew in 1922.

     Carew Spinel.jpg


    Mogul Names Necklace
     – An imperial necklace set with 11 polished Spinel beads from the Pamir region weighing a total of 1,131.59 carats. Three of the beads are engraved with the Emperors names.

     Mogul Names Necklace.jpg


     THE HEALING PROPERTIES OF SPINEL 

    Believed to protect its owner from harm and soothe sadness, to stimulate strength, promote physical vitality and bring high energy. It is said that Spinel can aid in the speed of recovery from all illness and disease associated with movement. In the mental realm, it is used to help reduce forgetfulness.


    ANNIVERSARIES

    Spinel is a celebratory gem for 22nd Wedding Anniversary.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nicky Thomas

Educated at the University of Exeter and a key part of our team here at The Rare Gemstone Company, Nicky has been fascinated by gemstones and jewelry since childhood. She explores all areas of the industry in her blog and revels in the proximity to gems and jewels that working at the source of some of the world’s most beautiful and rarest gemstones provides her.

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