Spinel, the Misunderstood Gemstone
Spinels are frequently mistaken for other gemstones. The most famous spinels in the world, the Black Prince's Ruby and the Timur Ruby, are both part of the British crown jewels. Neither are rubies. They are spinels.
Blue spinels are mistaken for sapphires, just as red spinels are mistaken for rubies. Spinels come in a wide variety of colors: pink, gray, lavender, blue, red, yellow, brown, black, even colorless.
Spinels are almost as hard as rubies and sapphires, registering an 8 on the Mohs scale. Their variety of colors and their hardness makes them perfect for use in jewelry. Many jewelers admire and appreciate spinels, although Jonas Hjornered of Ivy New York complains, “What you hear a lot is: ‘Spinel is my favorite gemstone, but my customers don’t understand it'."
Many people believe different gemstones have different meanings. Blue and green spinels calm their wearer and relieve stress and depression. Black spinel aids in protection. Orange spinel encourages optimism. Red spinel grants energy and strength. Purple spinel leads the wearer toward goodness and light.
The best spinels come from Asia, although the gem can be found all around the world. The larger the stone and the greater the clarity, the higher the value. The red stones are the most popular for jewelry and thus the most expensive, although far less expensive than the harder (but less rare) ruby.
The largest spinel in the world is the Samarian Spinel, which is part of the Iranian Crown Jewels. It is approximately 500 carats. The second largest spinel is Catherine the Great's Ruby, at 398 carats. It was the centerpiece of the crown used for her coronation as Empress of Russia.