Spinels are stunning gemstones that have a very long and rich history without actually being known. Up until recently people thought spinels were corundums like rubies. This was due to their similarity in almost everything, from color to origin.
AN INTRODUCTION TO SPINELS
Prominent spinel deposits can be found in many places across the world, including Tanzania, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar (Burma). These deposits tend to be very remote and difficult to work.
Some of the earliest known spinels that were fashioned into jewellery date back to the first century B.C. What is interesting is that they have been found in several places such as Buddhist Tombs where they were used as a form of Tribute. They have also been found in High end Roman jewellery that was likely only intended for the most wealthy individuals.
Spinels are similar in chemical composition to Corundum, but with the addition of Magnesium. The total production of spinel is considerably lower than that of Corundum, making top quality spinels exceedingly rarer than similar rubies and sapphires. The rarest and most sought after varieties are the vivid blue “cobalt” spinels from Luc Yen, Vietnam and vivid red spinels from Myanmar and Mahenge, Tanzania.
Some ancient mines that supplied gems for royal courts from Rome to China produced spinel, which is a good contender for the title of “History’s Most Underappreciated Gem.” However, spinel was typically confused with the better-known stones like ruby and sapphire.
Some of the most famous "rubies" in the world are actually spinel, a large portion of these red gemstones came from the now Infamous Kuh-i-lal, Pamir mountains in Tajikistan. These mountains produced extraordinarily large spinel crystals that have been adorned by royalty globally. exquisite stones were called Balas rubies.
One of the most famous examples is the so-called “Black Prince’s ruby”. This historic crimson-red gem is set in England’s Imperial State Crown and displayed in the Tower of London.
Roughly octagonal in shape and smooth to the touch, it was likely mined in the Afghan mountains.
It first surfaced in historical records in fourteenth-century Spain, and several Moorish and Spanish Kings owned it before Edward, Prince of Wales, also known as “the Black Prince".
He received the gemstone in 1367 as payment for a victory in battle.
Since then, the stone has been enjoyed by a multitude of English monarchs, including Henry VIII. It has survived fires, attempted thefts, and bombing strikes during World War II, emerging, together with the Koh-i-Noor diamond, as one of the main attractions of England's Crown Jewels.
Another large spinel in the Crown Jewels, the “Timur ruby” weighs over 350 carats. It, too, has a checkered history. Several Persian inscriptions carved into the gem testify to its age.
These gemstones differ to Corundum in several ways, namely their crystal structure. Spinels form in the cubic crystal system, whereas Corundums are Trigonal.
Cubic gemstones are singly refractive, which means that every ray of light that enters the gemstone continues in one direction. Corundums like sapphires & rubies are doubly refractive which means that every ray of light is broken up into two different rays, both traveling through the gemstone in different directions.
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