14 Aug 2023

The Spinel Gemstone: History’s Most Underappreciated Gem

The Spinel Gemstone: History’s Most Underappreciated Gem

Spinel, derived from the Greek word spinnos, meaning spark, refers to the stone's fiery red glow. Known as history’s most underappreciated and unknown gem, spinel stones have long been confused with their deep red counterpart, the ruby. 


Spinel gemstones are typically found in corundum rich granite deposits and limestone gravel. While spinel stones are best known for their bright red hue and likeness to rubies, they can be found in a range of colors, including bright red, pink, orange, violet, black, brown, and blue. The vast range of colors that spinels produce is due to the presence of trace elements. During formation, chromium replaces a trace element, such as iron, aluminum, cobalt, or magnesium to produce the spinel's color.


The typical red spinel that captivated admirers with its glowing red hue and likeness to rubies contains aluminum. Conversely, spinel formations that include iron or cobalt tend to appear bright blue. Blue spinels are the most rare color and have historically been confused with blue sapphires. 


Today’s spinel stones are found in several locations, namely Tajikistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Tanzania, and Pakistan, with Myanmar producing the most precious and famed Burmese spinels.

Spinel Gemstone: History and Origins


Spinel gems possess a lengthy and dramatic history due to the early confusion they caused among admirers. Early spinels were used by ancient civilizations in both Afghanistan and Rome. Seen in ancient tombs and royal regalia, Ancient Romans have been credited for the spinel stone's success after having brought the gem to England in 51 B.C. 


Some of the largest and greatest spinel stones can be found as centerpieces in royal regalia.  The Great Imperial Crown of Russia, the Royal Crown Jewels of Iran, and the British Great Imperial Crown all feature breathtaking spinel stones, making them one of the most precious royal gemstones. 


The use of spinel gems in royal regalia is believed to have occurred due to their similarity to rubies. It is believed today that ancient jewelers had mistaken spinels for rubies. In fact, the British Great Imperial Crown is commonly referred to as the Black Prince’s Ruby, which has recently been confirmed to be a spinel.


Known as history’s most underappreciated gemstone, the spinel’s confusing past led to the rise in popularity of the ruby and an overall underappreciation and awareness of spinel gems. In fact, spinel stones have only been recognized as a gemstone for a little over 150 years. While spinels remain obscure and underappreciated, fine spinel gems are exceptionally rare and valuable. 

Symbolism and Significance


Spinel stones come with many meanings, perhaps due in part to their precarious past and difficulty solidifying their identity. Some even believe that each color of spinel possesses its own significant meaning. 


The prevailing significance of spinels centers around revitalization and re-energization in all aspects of your life. Spinel stone relieves their wearer of stress and anxieties, negative thoughts and feelings, feelings of low self-esteem, and scarcity. They also are known to re-energize wearers by bringing forth relaxation, calm, confidence, strength, intuition, and abundance. Spinel gems are perfect for those looking to harness the stones' power for success and new beginnings.


Other meanings involve ideas of inspiration and innovation, persistence and determination, and optimism in the face of challenging circumstances. Despite the spinels' many meanings, one theme remains consistent - success. Spinel stones hold the ability to drive success in every area of one’s life, including career, finances, love, health, and happiness. 


As the second birthstone for the month of August, alongside peridots, spinel gems pose a unique opportunity for those born in the month of August to harness its revitalizing and re-energizing powers.


Multi Color Spinel and 18k Rose Gold Earrings

Multi Color Spinel and 18K Rose Gold Earrings

Burmese spinel stones are among some of the most sought after globally, due to their vibrant colors and quality. The most famed colors of Burmese spinel gems include pinks and vivid reds. 


Spinel stones appear in many shades and hues, making them one of the most brilliant stones on earth. While red spinel stones remain the most popular, blue spinel gems are the rarest and most valuable.


These stunning Multi Color Spinel and 18K Rose Gold Earrings combine Burmese spinel stones in pink, lavender, and blue set in 18k rose gold. In this design, Ann Ziff combines 24.53 carats of pastel hued burmese spinel gems to create a pair of earrings that are both playful and elegant.

Spinel and Black Diamond Necklace

Spinel and Black Diamond Necklace

Spinel stones are known for their exceptional clarity. Unlike the ruby, which is typically found cloudy and included, spinels are highly transparent singly refractive stones. Spinel inclusions usually appear as visible fractures within the stone. These visible fractures are not ideal for faceted cuts, as they can reduce durability and brilliance of the stones' shine. 


Our Spinel and Black Diamond Necklace combines 377 carats of red spinel beads. Deep red spinel gemstones are among the most valuable and highly coveted. In this design, Ann Ziff skillfully displays the exceptional deep red hues while highlighting the internal fractures that contribute to the stone's natural beauty. 


Six Strand Spinel and Gold Bracelet

Six Strand Spinel and Gold Bracelet
While deep red spinel gems remain among the most valuable, due to their likeness to rubies, bright red spinels with pink hues typically characterize the stone. Its subtle red glow and transparency makes the stone shine brilliantly in a way completely unique from any other stone. 


Our Six Strand Spinel and Gold Bracelet combines 105 carats of beautiful bright red spinel beads with 18k and 22k gold details. The richness of 22k yellow gold draws out the vivid red hues of the spinel resulting in an exquisite warmth that brings light and life to its wearer. 


Color Change Spinel Ring

Color Change Spinel Ring

Color changing spinels are one of the most rare types of spinel stone. This rare phenomenon occurs right in front of your eyes, as the gem shifts from one color to another. Color changing spinels are highly light sensitive, meaning they shift color depending on the lighting conditions. While the color changing spinel can shift colors dramatically in incandescent light and fluorescent light, the most thrilling color change occurs in broad daylight where the stone displays a mix of each of its inherent colors. 


Our stunning Color Change Spinel Ring boasts an impressive 22 carats, making it one of the most rare spinel gems in Tamsen Z’s collection. Color changing spinels of gemstone quality over 1 carat with remarkable clarity are very rare, making our Color Change Spinel Ring a true masterpiece. 


Spinel and Chrysoberyl EarringsSpinel and Chrysoberyl Earrings

Blue spinels have been dubbed as one of the most rare stones in the world. The blue spinel's rarity is derived from the fact that there are very few naturally occurring blue gems. While many blue gemstones rely upon enhancements to deepen their blue color, blue spinels are extracted from the earth brilliantly blue. Blue spinels differ from sapphires and aquamarine in that they are completely free of inclusions. While nearly every gemstone possesses naturally present inclusions, the blue spinel remains void of inclusions, making it remarkably valuable and radiant.


Our Spinel and Chrysoberyl Earrings expertly demonstrates the beauty and rarity of blue spinels by placing 4.5 carats of blue spinels at the lowest hanging point of the earrings. These stunning blue spinels hang effortlessly and graze shoulders with their exceptional allure.




Spinels remain one of the most elusive and underappreciated gemstones today, despite their striking beauty, rarity, and enduring presence in high-jewelry. Often confused with rubies, spinels have been featured in some of the world's most precious jewels and royal regalia. 


Spinels possess a deep significance that echoes the stone's precarious nature. With many meanings, the stone’s most prevailing symbolism involves revitalization and re-energization. For those born in the month of August, spinel’s make an excellent birthstone with the ability to draw abundance and success to each facet of one’s life.


Discover the magnificence of spinel stones in Tamsen Z’s expert designs and develop a new found appreciation for this strikingly valuable precious stone.

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