The Other “Ruby”

July 30th, 2009 by James L. Sweaney, CGA, FGA. GG
Magnificent 5.55 ct. Natural Spinel

Magnificent 5.55 ct. Natural Spinel

A few years back, we found this gorgeous red gem for a close friend.  She wanted a rich dark red stone and being a true princess, she wanted it big and dramatic. Rubies of this color and clarity are astronomical in price, usually reaching at least six figures. Even though hubby was very successful, the price of a good ruby put him into sticker shock. Our perfect solution was this fabulous natural spinel from Vietnam.

SpinelRing copy

Custom 18K Ring with 5.55 ct. Vietnamese Spinel, by Mardon

Spinel is a kissing cousin of the ruby– both are oxides of aluminum but the gem quality red spinel contains an additional bit of magnesium. Red spinels are often found in the same gem fields with ruby, and was only recognized as an individual mineral about 150 years ago. Til then, the spinel was thought to be another type of ruby, and was called “Balas Ruby.” Indeed, many of the large red gems found in the regalia of royalty worldwide are spinels. The famous Black Prince’s Ruby of England is actually a natural spinel.

Like ruby, spinel is tranformed into magnificent reds by the presence of chromium. Within the spinel family of minerals, other colors, including intense cobalt blues and bright yellows are found, but the reds are the most valuable.

One of the rarest of red gems, known as “Flame Spinel”, stands out in the gemological world and is very sought after by collectors. New finds of intensely colored spinels in Africa have generated tremendous excitement– especially, the spinels from Mahenge, Tanzania have been a real star at recent Tucson gem shows. And, as you can see from the photo above of the 5.55 ct gem, spinels from Vietnam can be absolutely superb!

Like the diamond, spinel usually forms a crystal shaped as an octahedron–picture two pyramids placed base to base. Most red spinel crystals are also relatively clean and transparent. It’s a relatively hard gem, ranked at 8 on the Moh’s scale, so it takes a high polish and wears quite well. Its high clarity and crystal, high refractive index and fine polish add up to a wonderfully bright and sparkly gem.

One carat extra fine rubies can bring $10,000 or more-but they look smaller than one carat spinels because of the higher density of ruby. Better quality 1 carat spinels sell at retail for about $500 to $800 per carat, with extra fine (GEM) one carat stones bringing $2000-$2500 and more.

Hot! 1.40 ct. natural spinel

Hot! 1.90 ct. Natural Spinel from Burma

This gemmy 1.90 ct. Spinel, approaching Flame, reasonable at $3450, will be a bargain at 30% off during our annual sale, starting Saturday, August 1 thru Saturday, August 15.  A gorgeous center stone for an elegant engagement ring!

Naturally, we love the spinel because of it’s wonderful personality. Bright color, clear sparkle, good durability, and reasonable price make it a real bargain in the world of gems.

An added bonus is that spinel is rarely or never heat treated. What you see is what you get–the color is completely natural! Peruse our online searchable inventory, visit our Gallery of Gems, and learn about this sleeper gem treasure.

And did I say, our Annual Sale starts August 1.  Spinels On Sale!

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