Spinel is its own mineral, but it is often found together with corundum – sapphire and ruby in other words. Spinel comes from Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Myanmar (Burma), but also Vietnam and Cambodia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Tanzania and Thailand, to name a few. The spinel I’ve dealt with has been from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam and recently, Tanzania. I’ve not seen other origins on the market.I like spinel because it is very sparkly and because right now, there are no known treatments or enhancements for it, so it is not that tricky to buy. Spinel is a fairly sturdy stone with a hardness of 8, and it always totally natural. (There is synthetic spinel, of course, but I’m not talking about that.)
Spinel comes in red, pink, purple, blue, and sometimes orange, yellow and green. The value is determined more or less in that order as well, though there are exceptions, depending on origin. There’s also black spinel, but what is sold under that name can also be garnet, and sometimes even black onyx.
Red spinel used to be confused with ruby but if you’ve ever seen red spinel, this is hard to believe. Most ruby nowadays is more pinkish, and usually more included. Spinel is very crisp and clean. Word has it that there used to be rubies like that, but they are now exceptionally rare.
|Red Spinel, Diamond and 14K Gold Ring - Custom Order|
I think spinel will probably never be as costly as sapphire, but it will also retain its value. Some say it might move slightly ahead of inflation. But right now all gemstones are ahead of inflation because many people are looking to invest in something other than stocks. So as gold and silver go up, diamonds go up, and then colored stones go up.
So what’s the most valuable spinel? Probably Burmese red, if it’s clean and large enough (1 carat at least). I’ve never seen any that size. Some websites offer Burmese reds at over 1 carat, but they’re lightly included and darker color.
The next most valuable spinel is the neon pink stuff from the Mehenge mines in Tanzania. That material is really really bright. Mahenge spinel has an absolutely phenomenal color, it’s almost fake looking. It is also rare, and it already trades at high prices. I only know one dealer that carries it.
|Mehenge Spinel Currently on my Site|
Sri Lankan stones, which are mostly pink, purple and blue, definitely cost much less (about 80% less on average) than Burmese or Tanzanian. They come in bigger sizes, though, and are equally clean.
There’s one other very important factor to consider when you buy spinel. You must look for “open color”: a red stone, for instance, should be bright and sparkly, it should pop out at you. It should not look like garnet. In other words, you are avoiding what is sometimes called “grey mask”. This doesn’t make the stone look grey exactly, but as any graphic or interior designer will tell you, adding grey subdues a color. So a stone with grey mask has less presence, it looks a little lifeless. When I browsed the web for this blog entry, I came upon a site where you can see the grey mask in some of the purple and blue stones: http://awesomegems.com/spinel.html. I think you’ll see it clearly.
|Ceylon Spinel Ring|