Monday, March 12, 2007

Forgotten jewel of the gemstone world

Spinel is the great imposter of gemstone history - many famous rubies in crown jewels around the world are actually spinel. In Burma, where some of the most beautiful colors are mined, spinel was recognized as a separate gem species since 1600 but in other countries the masquerade continued for hundreds of years. Historically, fine red spinels were esteemed as much as ruby, and sometimes even more. Next to ruby and the rare red diamond, spinel is the most expensive of all red gems.

Spinel is commonly found in alluvial gravels with corundum and also in association with gneiss, serpentine, calcite, dolomite, and garnet. Precious spinels appear strikingly clean and free of inclusions. The best proof of spinel is spinel and microscopic octahedra may be scattered in long chains and sinuous bands throughout inner stretches of the host crystal.

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