Spinel: August’s Hidden Gem – Unveiling the Allure, Myths, and Rich History

by Dani Chavez

The world of jewelry is a treasure trove of stories, symbols, and centuries of craftsmanship. Among the many gems that have adorned the crowns of royalty and the fingers of the elite, spinel stands as a gemstone with a history as rich and colorful as its brilliant hues. Join us on a journey through time as we explore the fascinating history of spinel jewelry.

From Formation to Gemological Marvels

Spinel’s captivating charm emerges from its geological origins and gemological traits. In nature, it arises within the Earth’s mantle through geological processes, adopting vibrant colors owing to trace elements like chromium. Conversely, lab-created spinel is meticulously synthesized to mirror nature’s forces, ensuring consistent quality.

This gem’s allure extends to its gemological attributes. With a hardness of 8 on the Mohs scale, it boasts durability ideal for jewelry. Its exceptional light dispersion and pleochroism lend it dazzling brilliance and captivating color variations from distinct angles, captivating both gem enthusiasts and designers alike.

1940s Retro Lab Spinel and Lab Ruby Ring. via The Gemmary

Ancient Beginnings

The story of spinel jewelry begins in ancient civilizations, where this remarkable gemstone was appreciated for its vibrant colors and stunning beauty. Ancient cultures, including the Egyptians and Romans, were among the first to recognize the allure of spinel. In these ancient societies, spinel was often used as a protective talisman, believed to shield its wearers from harm and negative energies.

Imperial State Crown with Black Prince’s “Ruby.” via Wikipedia

Medieval Deception

One of the most intriguing chapters in the history of spinel is its frequent misidentification as another red gemstone: the ruby. This confusion persisted for centuries, even among the most distinguished gem experts and collectors. The infamous Black Prince’s Ruby, set in the British Imperial State Crown, is perhaps the most famous example of this misidentification. In reality, it is a magnificent red spinel that has adorned the crown for over 700 years.

Carved Timur Ruby via D&A Style

Spinel in Royal Treasures

The allure of spinel jewelry continued to captivate royalty and nobility throughout history. Its exquisite shades of red, ranging from fiery crimson to deep burgundy, made it a favorite gemstone for crafting regal pieces. A perfect example of this is the Timur “Ruby,” a remarkable spinel of historical significance, which is inscribed with the names of five illustrious emperors and rulers: Jahangir of the Mughal Empire, Shah Jahan of the same dynasty, Farrukhsiyar, Nader Shah of Persia, and Ahmad Shah Durrani of the Durrani Empire. Each name etched into this resplendent spinel represents a chapter in the gem’s storied history, connecting it to the legacies of these mighty empires. It eventually found its way to Queen Victoria as a gift in the 19th century. Today, it is prominently displayed in the British Crown Jewels, bearing witness to centuries of history.

1940s Retro Lab Spinel Ring. via The Gemmary

The Revival of Spinel

In the 19th century, spinel experienced a revival in popularity, particularly during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods. Jewelry designers and collectors rediscovered the gem’s versatility, using it not only for its red hues but also for its stunning blues, pinks, and purples. Spinels were often paired with other precious gems like diamonds, sapphires, and emeralds to create breathtaking pieces that embodied the spirit of their respective eras.

1930s Victorian Revival Lab Spinel and Seed Pearl Ring. via The Gemmary

Spinel Today

Today, spinel remains a beloved gemstone in the jewelry world. Its remarkable hardness makes it suitable for a wide range of jewelry designs, from rings and necklaces to earrings and brooches. While still treasured for its red varieties, spinel’s diverse color palette offers endless possibilities for contemporary jewelry creations.

In recent years, spinel has gained recognition as the alternative birthstone for August, offering those born in this month a unique and vibrant choice to celebrate their special day.