For centuries Spinel was mistaken for ruby and gained undeserved fame. Today fine red spinel is more rare than ruby but less valuable.
Its name derivation is also ambiguous. Experts are undecided whether it derives from the Greek word for “spark” or the Latin “thorn”.
Although commonly thought of as red, spinel can be found in a range of beautiful pastel shades. These outstanding shades of pink, purple, orange, blue, plus every combination in between make spinels some of the most desirable stones in the world.
Spinel is never treated in any way and continues to be a great substitute for ruby and sapphire as well. Spinel is mined in Burma, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, and Tadzhikistan, part of the former Soviet Union.
Some famous large rubies, such as the “Black Prince’s Ruby” and the “Timur Ruby” in the British Crown Jewels are actually spinels, because until the beginning of the 19th century spinels were thought to be rubies.
The two largest spinels, each 520 ct, are on display at the British Museum of London. The “Diamond Fund” in Moscow owns a spinel of 400 ct.