What is Spinel?

Natural Gemstone of Striking Beauty

Spinel is a beautiful and durable gemstone that comes in a variety of colours. So, it is perfect for making jewellery. It’s naturally formed over some millions and even billions of years; thanks to its hardness of eight on the Mohs scale.

It was relatively unknown until recently as it used to get snapped up by collectors as soon as it became available, but it is now the new birthstone for August and also the 22nd wedding anniversary gemstone.

Found in several countries, the two best-known sources for spinel are Myanmar (formerly Burma) and Sri Lanka. The International Gem Society rates natural spinel from Mogok, Myanmar as a higher value with the best provenance. 

Famous Spinel

One famous example of spinel is the 170-carat Black Prince’s Ruby, which is the centrepiece of the British Imperial State Crown. The 361-carat Timur Ruby, given to Queen Victoria in 1851, is also a spinel. It is the centrepiece of a beautiful necklace that forms part of the British Crown Jewels. It was believed to be a ruby until 1851- when there was a reclassification of the mineral compounds which split ruby and spinel.

The largest known spinel in the world is the Samarian Spinel which is  500carats. This natural spinel is 5.5cm wide and forms part of the Iranian Crown Jewels.

The Different Types of Spinel Gemstones

Natural spinel, synthetic spinel, simulant spinel, and composite spinel are the four primary varieties of this gemstone. Natural spinels are the most expensive type since they are challenging to locate. Spinels made artificially in a laboratory are chemically identical to those that occur naturally on the earth.

The term "simulants" refers to materials that resemble the appearance of spinel but have fundamentally distinct chemical make-ups. "Composite spinel" refers to the spinel produced by combining natural and synthetic spinel.

1. Natural Spinel

Natural spinel is unearthed in metamorphic rocks, such as marble or gneiss, where they have been transformed. Natural spinel is the most sought-after and expensive form because it is rare.

Natural spinels indicate geological processes occurring at significant depths. These gemstones form naturally and can take millions to billions of years to develop.

2. Synthetic Spinel (Manufactured in a Lab)

Synthetic spinels are manufactured in laboratories. These stones are frequently manufactured in hues that do not occur naturally. Synthetic spinels are far more readily available than natural spinels and typically fetch a lower price.

3. Simulant Spinel

The term "simulants" refers to materials that resemble the appearance of spinel but have distinct chemical make-ups. The most popular simulant is cubic zirconia (CZ), manufactured using zirconium oxide. CZ has a price far lower than that of spinel while having a comparable appearance. Synthetic moissanite and synthetic rutile are also examples of additional simulants.

4. Composite Spinel

"Composite spinel" refers to spinel produced by combining natural and synthetic spinel. In general, the quality of these gemstones is lower than that of pure natural or synthetic spinels. The value of composite spinel is significantly lower than that of natural or synthetic spinel.


Benefits of Spinel

Many people believe natural gemstones have unique healing powers. It is also believed that natural spinel has a calming effect on the wearer – relieving anxiety; reconciling differences; soothing sadness and bringing new hope in times of darkness.