Spinel is a gemstone that has often been confused with ruby. One of August’s birthstones, spinel can come in a variety of colors, including red, black, blue, green, and purple. It can also appear colorless.
Spinel can be found in deposits around the world. However, in ancient times, Southeast Asia produced very large formations of the gemstone. Red spinel is often called “flame spinel.” Two of these large, red gems are in the English crown jewels. Known as the “Black Prince’s Ruby” and the “Timur Ruby,” it was later discovered that they were spinels.
According to legend, spinel can help revitalize and bring energy to the owner. It is said to lower anxiety and stress. Along these lines, it’s also believed to encourage new ways of thinking and promote the fortitude to get through challenges in life.
In the mystic realm, some have felt that spinel helps communicate with higher powers. They say it improves intuition and clarity and balances emotions.
Magnetite is a type of spinel that has magnetic properties. As early as the 11th century, mariners used this form of spinel—known as lodestone—to magnetize their compasses.
Those who believe in crystal healing feel that magnetite helps align currents in the body. They also believe it can balance mood swings and polarities, such as physical and spiritual, and the two brain hemispheres.
By Alethea Inns, CGA,
Director of Gemology and Education, American Gem Society
Buying jewelry can be intimidating—it’s a bit like buying a home. It’s a big purchase and you need help from qualified professionals—that you trust—to close the deal. And it’s an emotional purchase; it can represent a big life change.
This is experience talking. I recently bought my first house. It was scary. How was I supposed to spend so much money on something that was so unknown? I had the comps, knew the area, knew the specs of the house and all the data and statistics. But that wasn’t enough. How did I know if there weren’t issues that I couldn’t see? What if the foundation was cracked, or there was mold behind the walls? What if there was a weird smell no one knew the cause of?
That’s why I brought in the experts. I had an amazing real estate agent who knew the area and even researched the owners. I had an appraiser that was ethical who refused to raise the appraised value of the house beyond what he thought was fair. I had an inspector who I trusted to come in and point out every little issue that could be a problem later on.
These professionals were people that I trusted. I knew they had their professional credentials and licenses. They were experts in their fields and most importantly, upheld standards of practice.
These jewelers are AGS titleholders, which means they are professionals who have pre-requisite gemological or jewelry industry education, verified by the AGS, and then tested by the AGS in their proficiency to grade diamonds. Not only that, they are required to write a Recertification Exam every year to ensure they are up-to-date on the most recent developments in the jewelry industry. If they do not take the annual exam, they cannot maintain their title.
More than being knowledgeable, AGS titleholders are also required to sign an ethics agreement every year and are required to uphold the AGS standards for protecting you, the customer, every day, and in every interaction.
Why shop with an AGS jeweler?
For the same reason you see a certified professional accountant (CPA) to do your taxes, or a doctor that not only has a medical degree, but has their board certification, or the reason you rely on experts with any major purchase, investment, or life event.
An AGS jeweler is there to protect you, their customer. They are there to give you the information you need to make an informed buying decision. Yes, they are there to sell you jewelry, but more than that, they are there to share their passion for jewelry and help you celebrate the moments and reason you walked into their store in the first place.
Ask your jeweler, “Are you an AGS jeweler?” If not, find one that is.
As a credentialed gemologist, Alethea has some favorite gemstones, although it’s not easy to narrow the list down to just a few. Click below to get a closer look at these beautiful gems!
Cushion cut pink spinel and diamond ring, by Omi Privé.
The 18k gold “Eva” ring features Paraíba tourmaline, demantoid garnet, and diamonds, by Erica Courtney.
This ring, by Le Vian, features Chocolate Diamonds® and Vanilla Diamonds®.
Russian demantoid and diamond ring, by Michael Schofield & Co.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
It’s been a year since spinel was added to August’s birthstone line up. Those celebrating a birthday during the eighth calendar month now have three gemstone choices: peridot, sardonyx, and spinel.
Blue spinel by Gem 2000.
For those who are still unfamiliar with spinel, it is often assumed to be other gemstones, like ruby or sapphire. Cobalt blue, like the one above, is one of the most desired colors. But it can be found in a variety of colors, such as the much coveted red, as well as black, violet blue, greenish blue, grayish, pale pink, mauve, yellow or brown. Spinel can also be found in various cuts, like octagons, trillions, squares, rounds and fancy shapes, like ovals, pears, and cushions.
No matter what the shape, spinel is spectacular! Take a look at these designs by our AGS members. Click on the images for a closer view.
The Kalmia bracelet by Yael Designs features opal cabochons accented with pink spinel.
Affinity bracelet by Coffin & Trout Fine Jewellers, featuring multi-colored spinel and round brilliant cut diamonds.
Emerald cut purple spinel, pink and white diamond ring by Omi Prive.
Peridot by Gem 2000.
The verdant peridot is the gemstone most commonly associated with August. Peridot’s recognizable green hue could sometimes vary from yellowish-green to olive to brownish green, contingent on how much iron is present. Yet the finest peridot is a brilliant green without any hints of brown or yellow.
Our AGS members will help you find the perfect peridot for you! Click on the images for a closer view.
Hand-hammered Fiddlehead earrings by Ed Levin Jewelry featuring peridot in the center.
Peridot and sterling sliver ring by Michael Schofield & Co.
Oval checkerboard peridot and diamond neck piece by Parle.
Since as far back as Roman times, sardonyx has been highly valued as a stone representing strength, courage, happiness, and clear communication.
The unique reddish, zebra-striped banding of sardonyx stands out beautifully when the stone is smoothed, so it is often cut in cabochon and worn as beads or featured in an eye-catching pendant or ring.
Sardonyx makes a great gift for those born in August who want something a little different than the traditional birthstone. Readily available and relatively inexpensive, sardonyx makes an affordable addition to anyone’s collection.
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!
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.
We have a birthday present for those born in August: the spectacular spinel has been added to your month’s birthstone lineup! August now joins June and December as the only months represented by three gems. The original August birthstone was Sardonyx, and then peridot was added, becoming August’s primary gem. Without further ado, let’s welcome the spinel!
The spinel is often assumed to be other gemstones because it tends to resemble either a ruby or sapphire. In fact, some of the most famous rubies in history have turned out to be spinel. But its distinguishing features, like its octahedral crystal structure and single refraction, are what sets it apart from other gems. Spinel also has a lower Mohs hardness than ruby and sapphire.
Significant deposits of spinel have been found in Cambodia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. It has also been found in Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Tadzhikistan, Tanzania and the U.S.
Vivid red is the most desirable color of spinel gemstones, followed by cobalt blue, bright pink and bright orange. The more affordable stones are often those with paler colors, like lavender. You may also find spinel in black, violet blue, greenish blue, grayish, pale pink, mauve, yellow or brown. So many choices!
When shopping for spinel, a good quality stone should have no visible inclusions. The more inclusions, the less valuable the stone. Spinel can be found various cuts, like octagons, trillions, squares, rounds and fancy shapes, like ovals, pears, and cushions.
Below is a collection of designs featuring the newest August birthstone: the spectacular spinel!
AG Gems designed this ring featuring a natural purple spinel flanked by two natural half-moon cut violet spinels, set in 18k white gold, and accented by pink sapphires and diamonds.
Sterling Silver Classic Chain Medium Bracelet with pink spinel by John Hardy.
Omi Privé 18k yellow gold ring featuring a 3.27 carat oval spinel, round spinels, and round diamonds.
The signature green color of peridot comes from the composition of the mineral itself—rather than from trace impurities, as with many gems. That is why peridot is one of few stones that only comes in one color, though shades may vary from yellowish-green to olive to brownish green, depending how much iron is present.
Most of the world’s peridot supply comes from the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona. Other sources are China, Myanmar, Pakistan and Africa.
Also known as “the Evening Emerald” because its sparkling green hue looks brilliant any time of day, peridot is said to possess healing properties that protect against nightmares and evil, ensuring peace and happiness. Babies born in August are lucky to be guarded by peridot’s good fortune.
Peridot can be assessed with the same 4Cs criteria as diamonds—using Color, Clarity, Cut, and Carat weight to determine value. The finest peridots have a lovely lime green hue without any hints of brown or yellow. Quality gems have no inclusions visible to the naked eye, though dark spots may be evident under a microscope. When you look closely, due to double refraction, you may see two of each facet on a peridot.
Whether you’re shopping for an August birthday or a 16th wedding anniversary, be sure to visit an AGS-certified jeweler. They will help you find the perfect peridot design, like those pictured below!
Whirl Peridot and Burnished Diamond Ring by Carelle.
Oxidized Sterling Silver and 24k Gold “Candy” Earring with Oval Peridot Cabochon, by Lika Behar Collection.
Erica Courtney presents 18k Yellow Gold “Chevron” Ring Featuring a 9.81ct Peridot, Accented with 1.04ctw diamonds.
Sardonyx combines alternating layers of sard and onyx—two types of the layered mineral chalcedony—to create a reddish zebra-striped stone with white bands.
Sard ranges in color from yellowish red to reddish brown, depending how much iron oxide is present. Sard is easily confused with carnelian, another type of chalcedony that is slightly softer and lighter in color.
Sardonyx, like onyx, shows layers of parallel bands—instead of the chaotic, curved bands that compose agate, another type of chalcedony.
The finest examples of sardonyx, which display sharp contrasts between layers, are found in India. Other sources include Brazil, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Madagascar, Uruguay, and the United States.
Used as a stone of strength and protection since ancient times, sardonyx is associated with courage, happiness, and clear communication. Some believe that placing sardonyx at each corner of a house will grant protection against evil.
Sardonyx makes a great gift for people born in August who want something a little different than the traditional peridot birthstone. Readily available and relatively inexpensive, sardonyx makes an affordable addition to anyone’s collection.
The qualify factors of sardonyx are not as clearly defined as other gems like diamonds, so ask an AGS-certified jeweler for help selecting good stones. Generally, the 4Cs still apply.
Sardonyx is widely available and moderately priced in sizes up to 10 carats. The most common cut is cabochon, though it is popularly carved into cameos, intaglios, inlays and broaches to emphasize the contrast between layers.
Artificial and imitation sardonyx has been produced from common chalcedony and plain agate as far back as Roman times, according to writings from first-century naturalist, Pliny. Some gems are also stained with iron oxide pigment or treated with nitric acid to enhance color. These enhancements make stones less valuable than natural sardonyx, so watch for possible imitations when buying these gems.
During the American Gem Society’s Conclave, held April 13-16, 2016 in Washington, D.C., Jewelers of America produced their annual Fashion Show. This much-anticipated show starred AGS suppliers and their gorgeous jewelry! After the show, guests mingled with their AGS suppliers for a closer look at what the models were wearing.
We’d like to thank all of the participants for showing their support and making this event a huge success! Not pictured is Grunberger Diamonds, who displayed their exquisite diamonds at the AGS Suppliers’ Showcase.
A special thanks goes to Ella-Rue for providing the luxury fashions complimenting the jewelry.
Each winter jewelry designers, stone dealers and rock hunters head to the desert for the world’s largest gem and mineral show. From teeny-tiny precious gems that go for tens of thousands a carat to massive geodes that have to be trucked in, the annual fair in Tucson, AZ, is a favorite of fine jewelry designers like Los Angeles-based Erica Courtney.
Although she regularly travels the globe in search of spectacular colored gems for her signature Drop Dead Gorgeous collection—recent trips include Tanzania and Hong Kong—it’s this pilgrimage to the Southwest that holds a special place in her heart.
“It’s just paradise for us,” Erica explains. “We get to see all these types of amazing gemstones, plus we get to meet new people in the industry. What could be better than networking and keeping ourselves updated with the latest gemstones?”
Below, Erica shares her three favorite gemstone finds from the show, and why exactly she’ll be bringing them home to use in upcoming collections.
Tourmaline: Tourmaline has a bunch of different colorations, and we were loving them because we saw a lot of new and exciting colors. Some of them can be so bright and beautiful, it’s so hard to resist. Plus, the clarity of tourmalines is always exquisite.
Csarite: Csarite is just such an interesting stone—did you know it’s only found in one place in the world, in the remote Turkish Anatolian mountains? Everyone loves the way the stone changes color from from kiwi greens in sunlight to raspberry purplish-pinks in candlelight; as well as the dispersion on the stone. It’s just so unique!
Purple Garnets: Purple garnets were also one the highlights of the show, they had such a saturated and vivid coloration—I have never seen such beautiful garnets! So different and super sparkly, just a shade different from amethyst. Gorgeous!
One look at Erica’s designs and you’ll understand why colored gemstones are so important for inspiration. Here are three brand new pieces by Erica Courtney with her signature detailed settings and bold color.
18K yellow gold “Sayeda” ring featuring a 5.49ct spinel, accented with 1.26ctw Rubelite Tourmaline and 1.21ctw diamonds.
18K yellow gold “Crossover” ring featuring a 7.42ct mint tourmaline, accented with two 0.47ctw opals on the sides and 1.09ctw diamonds.
18K yellow gold “Cigar Band” ring featuring a 2.10ct paraiba tourmaline cabochon, accented with 0.22ctw paraiba tourmaline and 0.65ctw diamonds.
This new semi-regular feature will highlight some of our members’ favorite places to go and things to see in their hometowns, as well a sneak peek at their newest designs. First up: Los Angeles, where Michael John Jewelry and OMI Privé are headquartered.
Shopping – I like the new and up-and-coming designer brands available at Barneys.
Weekend activity – My family and I live and breathe soccer and it pretty much occupies most of our time spent on the weekends. My wife, Atousa, and I have two boys and we are either at one of their tournaments, playing with them one-on-one or watching it together on TV.
Day trip – I love to visit Santa Barbara for relaxing and taking trips up to Big Bear for skiing with the family.
We love Michael John’s creations for their bold silhouettes and fashion-forward designs. Some of the designer’s newest pieces include a major pink diamond ring perfect for the ultra-feminine bride and a set of rose-cut diamond pieces that have more than enough sparkle for a night on the town.
Michael John Jewelry 5.70 carat pink diamond ring in 18k rose gold.
Michael John Jewelry rose-cut and round diamond ring in 18k white gold
and 39.61 carat rose-cut diamond bracelet in 18k white gold.
Founders, designers and brothers Michael and John Hezar, of Michael John Jewelry (formerly known as Michael John IMAGE and Image Jewelry), share a common goal of creating timeless fashion. Inspired by nature, these brilliant designs are crafted into impeccable jewelry with exquisite quality, allowing Michael John Jewelry to meet, if not surpass their goal of embracing everlasting style in all of their pieces.
OMI Privé designs out-of-this-world colored stone jewelry in classic settings with a twist. New favorites include this stunning purple spinel ring with a surprising alexandrite halo, and an oval aquamarine set in unexpected rose gold.
OMI Privé spinel and alexandrite ring in 18k rose gold.
OMI Privé aquamarine and diamond ring in 18k rose gold.
The Omi Gems family dates back five generations to Burma in the early 1900s. Decades of wars and close escapes from political unrest followed. With a handful of gems, a brilliant outlook, and a clear mindset, Omi Nagpal and his loving wife, Preeti, came to the United States. There, they founded and built a loose gemstone house that over time became synonymous with the world’s most valuable jewels. Now, the Los Angeles-based company is led by Omi’s son, Niveet. As head designer, Niveet has continued the family’s reputation and high integrity through the Omi Privé fine jewelry collection.