The Black Prince’s Ruby. The Timur Ruby. For centuries, spinel, the great imposter, masqueraded as ruby in Europe’s crown jewels.
Although not an official US birthstone, spinel has long been mistaken for ruby by emperors and monarchs. Many of the famous “rubies” of history were actually spinels.
Until recently, spinel was an underappreciated gem with little consumer recognition. Increasing demand for ruby alternatives rekindled appreciation for spinel’s rich red color and history. In ancient times, southeast Asia’s mines yielded exceptional large spinel crystals, which became the treasured property of kings and emperors, often passing through many hands as spoils of war.
WHY WE LOVE THIS GEMSTONE
Spinel crystals are so perfect, in Burma they are said to be nat thwe or “polished by the spirits.”
The famous 14th century Black Prince’s Ruby in the British Imperial Crown is actually a red spinel.
Mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle identifies spinel as a different mineral than ruby.
Singly refractive and often very transparent, red spinel rivals ruby’s color but it costs much less.
Red spinel is colored by chromium, the same trace element that colors ruby and emerald.
BIRTH OF GEMOLOGY
Distinguishing spinel from ruby gave birth to the science of gemology.
An assessment of the following characteristics determines spinel’s value.