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Learn About Spinel Gemstones

Spinel Gemstone Properties
Spinel loose gemstones are not a birthstone, and are kind of the black sheep of the gemstone world. Most people commonly associate the word Spinel with synthetic gemstones. Although Spinel gemstones. are among the most beautiful of all gemstones, they are not found in sufficient quantities to be marketable to the mass gemstone and jewelry markets. A super fine red Spinel gemstone is rarer than a fine ruby! Spinel is only slightly softer than ruby or sapphire, and like it, has no cleavage. It is also one of the most brilliant of all gemstones and amongst the most durable of all gemstones. It is found in a huge range of colors, although not as many as sapphire. The main colors are red, reddish orange, pink, pinkish red, purple and even a deep cobalt blue. Because of the spectacular colors and physical properties of Spinel gemstones, it is a favorite of custom jewelery designers.

Spinel Gemstone History and Lore The earliest recorded use of a Spinel gemstone was in 100 BC, as an ornament on a Buddhist tomb in Afghanistan. The Romans also used it as jewelry. The first known systematic mining of Spinel was in Afghanistan about 750 AD. Many of the historic spinels were likely mined there. Many of the famous gemstones thought to be rubies in royal collections are actually spinels! The largest red Spinel of gem quality is a 412 ct stone that is part of the Russian crown jewels. The world's largest collection of fine spinels is part of the former Crown jewels of Iran. It wasn’t until 1587 that Spinel was recognized as a separate mineral species and gemstone.

Spinel Gemstone Sources and occurrences
Most spinel gemstones are mined from alluvial occurrences. The Mogok area in upper Burma is the source for some of the finest quality spinels and they occur in a variety of colors - red, pink, violet, orange, blue and rose. Some of the most brilliant and fascinating colors of spinels mined in the past few decades have been found in this gem mining area. In the past several years the locality of Mahenge in southern Tanzania has produced some incredible red and reddish orange spinels of impressive sizes and very fine qualities. Sri Lanka is also a major producer of spinels. Other sources are Tadzhikistan, Thailand and Pakistan.

Spinel Gemstone Evaluation and Valuation Color, clarity and weight are the most important considerations in evaluating a spinels quality. Spinels are commonly found in larger sizes. Red is the most valuable color, followed by orange red, pinkish red and purplish red. A fine vivid red Spinel is rarer than a ruby of equal quality, although it doesn’t command a rubies price per carat. As Spinel is commonly flawless, clarity is a much more important consideration than in Ruby. Many fine red spinels have some minute inclusions and are still highly valued. Spinel prices have soared in recent years due to increasing awareness of the gemstone and scarcity.