Spinel is one of the most infamous tricksters in the history of jewelry-making. Its red color makes it a ruby lookalike. At times, this similarity leads to confusions of unimaginable magnitude. It turned out that the rubies that adorn the crowns of the royal families of Great Britain and Russia are not rubies at all. They are spinel stones. Indeed, it is hard to tell ruby and spinel apart. The difference can be detected only in a laboratory. Despite the fact that spinel isn’t precious, it is a stunning beautiful jewel. This means that it deserves your attention.

Spinel Meaning and History

There are two versions of the origin of the word spinel. One of them says that it comes from the Greek word for spark because the gem resembles sparkling fire. The other version refers to the Latin word ‘spina’ that means thorn. Indeed, pointy spinel crystals resemble thorns.
Spiel has been known as a gemstone for several sentries. Marco Polo, who came across the gem during his visit to The Pamirs, called it Balas Ruby to honor Badakhshan, a town near Samarkand where it is mined. In France, the name transformed into Ruby Balais. When it became clear that the gem was spinel, its name turned into Balais or Balas spinel.
The red stone quickly became a symbol of power. It sits proudly in the imperial crowns of Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany. In the past, it adorned the thrones of eastern rulers.

Red Spinel beads for necklace

Spinel Metaphysicochemical Properties

From a chemical standpoint, spinel is magnesium aluminate. In other words, it is a result of the interaction between magnesium oxide and aluminum oxide. It acquires a specific color based on a type of ions embedded in its crystal lattice. The most common inclusions are zinc, chromium, iron, titanium, manganese, calcium, and chlorine. Some crystals boast a beautiful asterism effect - admixtures along the axes of the crystal create a star-shaped silhouette. An inclusion-less variety of spinel is completely colorless and is thin on the ground.
Ions give the mineral a range of colors but do not affect its physicochemical properties. Spinel is a quite hard (7.5-8.0 on the mineral hardness scale) but very fragile gem. For this reason, it requires careful maintenance.

Spinel beads for jewelry

Spinel Colors and Types

Spinel comes in several varieties: common, noble, and chrome. The most valuable of these is the noble (precious) spinel. It delivers plenty of colors but its main feature is not appearance, it is clarity.

Noble spinel, in turn, is available in a few varieties of its own:
Ruby spinel offers a deep red color;
Sapphire spinel is known for its bright blue color;
Rubicelle is an orange-red gem;
Almandine (oriental spinel) provides a rich purple hue.
Besides that, noble spinel can be blue and green.

Large and clear (without visible impurities) stones are few and far between. Colorless minerals are especially rare - they are the most valuable specimens.
The most widespread variety is common spinel. These are gems of dark green and black color. Common spinel has its own subtypes - ceylonite and pleonaste. Both are ferroan spinels containing a large amount of iron. In addition, there is chrome spinel offering a rich black color.

Red spinel beads for jewelry making

Spinel Value

Synthetic spinel was obtained accidentaly. Scientists tried to create an artificial sapphire but instead, they got a cubic mineral. To synthesize spinel crystals, they mix powder consisting of lithium, magnesium, copper, calcium, and other elements. This powder gets fire-treated and voila, here comes spinel.
Artificial spinel has the same properties as natural stones. It cannot be called a fake. It often looks more vibrant than its natural counterparts and does not have any flaws. On the other hand, synthetic spinel has no magical or healing properties. Naturally, the cost of an artificial stone is much lower. The price for noble spinel starts at $ 20-30 per carat, and vibrant red and blue specimens of exceptional clarity may reach hundreds of dollars. Artificial stones are going to be dozens of times cheaper.

Spinel Loose stones for ring

Spinel Deposits

Spinel crystals rarely form independent deposits. Often, they accompany other minerals, mainly ruby. Some of the finest pink and red specimens come from the Mogok region of Myanmar. Sri Lanka supplies the blue variety of the gem. The Pamirs in Tajikistan have pink and red spinel deposits and they are known since antiquity. Vietnam mines a rare cobalt blue spinel as well as pink and red-violet varieties. Tanzania boasts top-quality pink-red stones. Along with that, gem-quality minerals are found in Afghanistan, India, Cambodia, Thailand, Brazil, and Australia.

Spinel rough, raw stones for jewelry making supplies
Spinel for sale

Spinel Healing Properties and Magical Properties

Lithotherapy claims that spinel helps combat infectious diseases and stomach issues, as well as has a positive effect on virility and improves vision. The gem strengthens the immune system and makes the heart more resilient.
According to an old legend, the stone saves from thirst and, therefore, it is highly valued by travelers. It makes sense to get a spinel talisman when you go on business trips or embark on a long journey. In the East, it is believed that spinel jewelry helps find love. In some European countries, the mineral is credited with the ability to preserve youth and beauty.
The index finger is the best pick for wearing spinel jewelry. It’s even better if you insert the stone into a gold setting since it’s able to enhance the spinel’s magical properties. While black spinel isn’t exactly a popular choice for jewelry, it makes an excellent talisman. It is capable of accumulating its owner's vital energy and giving it back when he or she needs it most.

Spinel meaning

Spinel beads for sale

Spinel for Sale Courtesy of KenKenGems

Black, blue, yellow, pink, red, and multicolored, all of these spinels are available at KekKenGems. We invite you to browse through our extensive spinel catalog where you will find large individual pieces, 3 and 5-piece sets, as well as strands and half-strands displaying multifaceted and cabochon cuts. You can also take advantage of 18K gold bezel settings for your handmade jewelry. At KenKenGems, we walk the extra mile to deliver affordable prices, expert cutting, and attention to every detail. Don’t hesitate to check out what we have in store for you, we promise you won’t leave empty-handed.

Spinel gemstones, properties

Spinel for Jewelry Making