Spinel is found in many locals worldwide - and in some of the most exotic, gem-rich countries. Today due to a new find in Tanzania this rich and beautiful jewel is finally taking its place beside the finest of gems and doing it with its real name intact!
The name Spinel comes from "spina" the Latin for thorn which is thought to refer to the pointed octahedral shaped crystals. It is the magnesium aluminium member of the larger spinel group of minerals, with the formula MgAl2O4.
As with most gems, Spinel in it's purest form is a clear colorless stone - trace elements in the areas where the deposits are found are responsible for the rainbow of colors that this up and comer can be found in. From the palest of pastel lavenders, pinks and blues, warm coffee browns to the most vivid red and gleaming black.
The Crown Jewels of Iran include what are thought to be the finest collection of Spinel, the largest of which is a 500 carat stone. This collection was plundered from India when the Mogul Empire fell. Yet the most famous Spinels, or should I say infamous are the 170 carat "Black Star Ruby" and 361 carat "Timur Ruby" found in the British Crown Jewels.
Only 150 years ago was this gem identified as a separate species from its look-a-like corundum, or ruby. And by 1910 using the Verneuil method of synthesizing, spinel was successfully created in the laboratory.
Today gorgeous gems are coming out of Tanzania and the gem rich Mogok Valley. It's color and hardness make it a great option for jewelry.
Morphology: Usually Octohedral
Hardness (Mohs): 7 1/2 to 8
I want to take a few lines to thank GemCal - Purveyors of Fine Spinel, a company that has been based in the Far East since the 80's, for the stunning gem photos. Their website is a wealth of information, gorgeous gems and for the adventurer the stories and photos of the mine sites.