Spinel: The Coolest Gem You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

By Isabelle Corvin, CG, Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers

Three Spinel Crystals

Red Spinel

Spinel is an oxide mineral that crystallizes in the cubic structure and has quite the mixed-up history.

As of 2016, it is also the newest birthstone to be added to the birthstone list! August babies now have a choice between vivid peridot and alluring spinel.

The word “spinel” comes from the Latin word Spinella, which means “little thorn” or “arrow-shaped.” Spinel gems come in a wide range of colors and saturations, though perhaps the most famous (and mistakenly infamous) is the red variety.

In ancient cultures, red spinel was always grouped together with rubies, and sometimes garnets, since the rough (and even polished and cut) crystals look so similar. In the modern age, the gems can be separated, but much of spinel’s history is tied up in the lore of rubies.

Red spinel ring, by Omi Privé.

Spinel-Omi

The oldest known spinel dates back to 100 B.C. and was found in Kabul, Afghanistan, inside a Buddhist temple. Red and blue spinels were also being used in crafting by the Romans.

The most famous spinel is also the most famous example of mistaken identity in all of gemological history. A “ruby” known as the Black Prince’s Ruby is our culprit. It is a red gem set in the Imperial State Crown of the British crown jewels. The gemstone is uncut, but polished, and weighs approximately 170 carats. The gem has never been removed from its original setting, so the weight is only estimated.

This amazing gemstone, however, is no ruby. It is, in fact, a spinel.

The Imperial State Crown. Image courtesy of GIA.

QueensCrown-lrg

The Black Prince was the son of Edward III, and reportedly received the gem from Don Pedro the Cruel, King of Castille as a reward. Legend has it that the spinel was one of the gems worn by Henry V on his helmet and that it deflected a fatal blow, saving his life during the Battle of Agincourt.

Whether true or not, the gem was thought to be ruby for many years, until technology and the knowledge of gems improved enough to separate gems on more than mere color.

This royal stone is not the only spinel in disguise. Empress Catherine II of Russia had a crown that bore an estimated 400-carat spinel. Likewise, Queen Victoria had a very dark red spinel called the Timur Ruby.

It doesn’t help matters when spinel and ruby often form together in the earth! In 1783, mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louis Rome de Lisle finally separated spinel from ruby, realizing that the two minerals were completely different.

Further confusion arises with spinel’s true nature even now.

Many pieces of inexpensive birthstone jewelry have an imitation of the true birthstone: something that looks like—but isn’t—the real thing. The majority of these are made with synthetic spinel, grown in a laboratory rather than the ground, but boasting the same chemical make-up.

The natural gem is lovely, but many only know of its synthetic counterparts.

Each color of spinel is thought to provide different benefits to the wearer, from protection to enhancing creativity and kindness, to better cognitive abilities. Colorless spinel is rare, and no current mines exist that produce it.

Spinel earrings set in 18k rose gold, by AG Gems.

Spinel-AGGems (2)

The most common colors seen in jewelry are red and blue, with the hues ranging from highly saturated to perfectly pastel.

Other popular colors are yellows, purples, and pinks, although the gem comes in every color. Black spinel is found in many pieces, and once again, is often confused for other black gems like hematite, black diamond, and black onyx.

Black spinel and white sapphire pendant, by Dilamani.

Spinel-Dilamani

Spinel is mined in many locations, including Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (formerly Bruma) Brazil, Sweden, Pakistan, and Russia, among others. It can even be found in the USA.

Additionally, small crystals have been found on meteorites, a trait spinel shares with the other August birthstone, peridot.

For a gemstone many have never heard of, it might be the most famous of all. It is the hidden star of the show, silently shining on as the world ignores it or mistakes it for another stone altogether.

Pink spinel and diamond drop earrings, by JB Star.

Spinel-JBstar

But spinel is worth a first, and second, glance. With spectacular colors, excellent durability and an amusing history, it’s the perfect addition to anyone’s gem and jewelry collection.

Spinel truly deserves the title: The Coolest Gem You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of!

isabelle

Isabelle Corvin is an AGS Certified Gemologist (CG) who is the Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers. Since she was 14-years-old, she knew she wanted to be a gemologist. Ms. Corvin also writes for Panowicz Jewelers’ blog.

The Merry Month of May

By Isabelle Corvin, CG, Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers.

“O, the month of May, the merry month of May, So frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!” – Thomas Dekker, Author, (c. 1572–1632).

May is truly the month that really feels like spring, and what better gemstone to have as the birthstone of this blossoming month than an emerald?

 

There’s no other stone that can match the lush, vibrant greens of emerald, truly a springtime favorite. In fact, some people believe the emerald symbolizes renewal and goodness, and that it is a stone that will increase a couple’s love for each other.

The color of lovely springtime emerald can vary in all hues of green, sometimes with a tinge of yellow and others leaning towards the blue-greens. These stones can be light and airy, or deep and dark, and everything in between.

 

Not only that, but it can be highly saturated with this earthy color, making it bright and energetic, just like this time of year.

Emeralds have been prized gems throughout history. Egyptians used the stones for many purposes and claimed a magic slab of the gemstone had “all knowledge” engraved on it. In India, there’s a myth that tells of a firefly that crystallized into an emerald. The Aztecs likened the beautiful color to the plumes of god-like birds.

Those of you who own an emerald (or desire to have one!) are in good company; emeralds were Cleopatra’s favorite gemstone.

 

Emeralds are to be worn with care since they are a softer gemstone than others. But with proper treatment, these stones will last a lifetime.

Emeralds are mined in many locations around the world, from the famous mines in Colombia to the newer mines in Zambia, to others. The finest Colombian emeralds are delightfully bluish-green, richly saturated and stunningly clear.

This spring, while we watch the flowers bloom and the trees sprout, don’t forget your May babies—or their beautiful birthstone, emerald!

Jewelry images by credentialed AGS members. Visit ags.org/findajeweler to find an AGS jeweler near you.

 

isabelle

Isabelle Corvin is an AGS Certified Gemologist (CG) who is the Staff Gemologist at Panowicz Jewelers. Since she was 14-years-old, she knew she wanted to be a gemologist. Ms. Corvin also writes for Panowicz Jewelers’ blog.

Emeralds and Diamonds: the perfect pair

By Donna Jolly, RJ

When you roam the hallways of the American Gem Society, it’s not unusual to see members of the team staring at images of gorgeous jewelry on their desktop. We work in this industry because we are fans of shiny, pretty things! As jewelry lovers, we can be a little fickle, month to month, as to what our favorite gemstone is.

Yes, we love diamonds. Quite a lot.

Turns out, we love May’s birthstone quite a lot, too: the emerald.

Pair an emerald and a diamond together, and we pretty much have a hard time finding the words to describe how over-the-top in love we are with that striking combination.

But let’s try. And in the process, we’ll show you some of our favorite pieces of emerald and diamond jewelry.

First, a little history on the emerald. This beautiful gemstone was mined in Egypt as early as 330 BC, but some estimate that the oldest emeralds are 2.97 billion years old. Cleopatra had a thing for emeralds. She even claimed ownership of all emerald mines in Egypt during her reign. If the queen could be around today, she would no doubt attempt to expand her reach of this green gift from the earth.

Emeralds, like diamonds, are analyzed according to the 4Cs: color, cut, clarity and carat weight. Rare emeralds are a deep green-blue, while lighter colored gems are more common—and a good choice for those looking for a more affordable alternative.

Now for the good stuff: take a look at this stunning pendant below from JB Star. Marquis shaped emeralds and diamonds surround a square-cut center diamond for a green and white starburst.

Pear Shaped emeralds and Marquite diamonds

Yael Designs is known for creating crazy beautiful colorful jewelry. Here, they show us some marquis magic, blending yellow and white diamonds with emeralds.

Emerald and and diamonds

Supreme Jewelry created this gorgeous pair of diamond chandelier earrings featuring tear-drop shaped emeralds. There is quite a lot to love here. Especially the intricate yet delicate design. Try to imagine this design with another gem in it other than emerald. Would it have the same level of vibrancy?

Emerald and Diamond Chandelier Earrings

Jewelry can represent different things: symbols of love and success, a cause for celebration, a little something extra to make you feel good. If you are in search of fine jewelry, whether it’s an emerald, diamond or another gemstone, shop with a jeweler you trust. It’s step number one in the jewelry-buying process. Find a professional, trusted American Gem Society jeweler here.  To learn more about emeralds and diamonds, click here.

Looking at Diamonds in a Different Light

Diamonds have been celebrated for centuries as a symbol of love and status and have been revered throughout the centuries. No wonder there are literally volumes of references to diamonds in fiction and historical tomes.

Though April is in our rearview mirror, we just can’t quite let go of our favorite gem, and in thinking about our obsession, three thoughts struck us that show how special diamonds really are:

Diamonds are the result of both nature and man. They come from the earth, but diamond cutters, who are skilled artisans, turn diamond rough into beautiful works of art.

Case in point: this masterpiece from Forevermark.

solitaire

Diamonds and plants both need light. Plants need light to live. In a way, so do diamonds. The way light travels through a diamond creates sparkle. A well-cut diamond will have more sparkle than one that is poorly cut. Gemologists often refer to this sparkle as “life.”

A well-cut diamond shimmers with life; that because of the light being returned to the eye! Did you know that cut affects the value of a diamond by as much as 50%? A well-cut diamond will appear larger than one of similar size that is not as finely cut.

This well-cut beauty from Carizza also doubles as a show-stopper!

emerald cut

Diamonds can be a symbol of love, status and even purity . . . they are also a symbol of strength: A diamond forms under tremendous heat and pressure, just like human character! It takes billions of years to form a diamond, and while humans don’t have that luxury of forever, we grow and learn from life’s challenges. It’s no wonder that people celebrate their special moments with diamonds. Diamonds are also the most durable of gems, and measure 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.

Star Gems demonstrates that while a diamond may be tough, the right design can be soft and downright feminine.

marquis

Ask your American Gem Society jeweler to help you find the perfect diamond. Remember, something as rare and precious as a diamond deserves a report from a well-respected diamond grading laboratory. Ask for one from AGS Laboratories, a nonprofit diamond lab created with the AGS mission of consumer protection and the highest standards of grading. Search for an American Gem Society jeweler near you by clicking here.

Election Day Sparkle

It’s election day in the USA! Months of election coverage culminates as America heads to the polls. We wanted to pay tribute to this important occasion in our own way: with red, white and blue jewelry designs from members of the American Gem Society (AGS). These beautiful pieces get our vote!

Red

Let’s begin with some bright and cheery red gemstones. Rubies naturally come to mind, but when it comes to red hues—there are many varieties of gemstones to choose from.

Jeffrey Daniels Unique Designs

jeffreydaniels-rubellite

A triangular rubellite set in 18k hammered gold, framed by bead set diamonds.


Supreme Jewelry

supreme-garnet

A red garnet pendant set in 18k rose gold framed by white diamonds.

United Color Gems

unitedcolorgems-red-spinel

Oval shaped red spinel earrings set in 18k white gold with white diamonds.

White

The color white has long stood for innocence, purity…and a color you’re not supposed to wear after Labor Day. But we all know diamonds and pearls can be worn any season!

Spark Creations

sparkcreations-diamond

These diamond earring jackets will give a simple diamond stud a little more oomph.

Honora

honora-pearls

The perfect balance between modern and feminine. White freshwater cultured pearls and sterling silver bracelet.

Caro 74

caro74-diamonds

Floral diamond pendant with a diamond bale, set in 14k white gold.

Blue

We can thank Mother Nature for some truly beautiful, truly blue gemstones! Be true blue with these wonderful designs!

Armadani

armadani-starsapphire

Star sapphire cabochon halo ring with round brilliant diamonds.

Carelle

carelle-tanzanite

Tanzanite Round Stack earrings in 18k yellow gold.

JB Star

A Passion for Precision.. A Labor of Love

Platinum pendant featuring a round diamond center encircled with perfectly matched round sapphires and pave accents.

No matter how you vote, when you choose to shop with a trusted AGS jeweler, you’re voting for a winner! Click here to search for an AGS jeweler near you.