Mineral Review

What is the difference between synthetic spinel and natural spinel?

Natural spinel has been very widely used in jewelry making in recent years. This semi-precious stone is characterized by a combination of attractive appearance and low price. Thanks to this, spinel jewelry is beautiful and at the same time relatively inexpensive. However, due to high demand, there is a shortage of natural spinel in the market. As a result, its price is rapidly rising. The very name of the stone “spinel” (in English – spinel) comes from the Latin term spinella, which translates as “thorn”. It indicates the shape of the crystals in the form of an octahedron and dodecahedron with sharp edges. Spinel is widely used in jewelry. This semi-precious stone has a glassy luster, so it looks very impressive after cutting. Thanks to its high hardness of about 8 on the Mohs scale, spinel is close to beryl and topaz – and only slightly inferior to corundum, ruby ​​and sapphire. Finally, it has in common with noble stones a significant dispersion indicator of 0,026 units. But jewelers value spinel for its unique colors – intense, close to neon red, pink and blue. When cut correctly and with high crystal clarity, it is possible to create incredibly impressive stones with a brilliant shine.

Colors and types of spinel

Spinel can be painted in almost any color. In jewelry, red, pink and blue options are especially in demand. But you can also find orange, blue, purple and black spinel on the market. Colorless, yellow and green stones are less common. Color-changing spinel is incredibly popular. The color of a mineral depends on its chemical composition – different impurity metals give different shades. The red variety is especially in demand among jewelers. Neon blue is very rare, and cut specimens weighing more than a few carats are incredibly rare.

Red spinel

Red spinel has been used in jewelry for a very long time. In fact, this is the most famous and sought after variety of this semi-precious stone. Red spinel is extremely similar to rubies. This spinel is inlaid into the crown of the Russian Empire and the crown of Great Britain. Previously they thought it was a ruby, but in fact it turned out to be a red spinel. The chromium contained in the mineral gives its characteristic shade. Red spinel can be colored with different intensities – from light, close to pink, to intense, close to black or a shade of Shiraz wine. Sometimes the color can be complemented by an orange, brown or purple tint. If there are too many such inclusions, the price of spinel decreases, so it is better to choose clean and transparent stones for investment. In recent years, red spinel “Jedi” has been especially in demand among jewelers. It is mined in Burma and is characterized by a unique appearance – it seems to glow from within. Spinel “Jedi” exists in single copies, the weight of which usually does not exceed 2 carats.

Pink spinel

Due to its delicate and elegant color, pink spinel is used to make particularly feminine jewelry. It is perfectly complemented by white (colorless) diamonds. The largest deposit of pink spinel is located in Tajikistan, in the Pamirs. Here, especially pure stone is mined without impurities and additional shades. Pamir pink spinel is very similar to diamonds – it has a coolish color, not too bright, but not pale. Pink spinel is also mined in Vietnam and Burma. This stone is also found in Tanzania, but colored neon pink-red. Because of this unusual tone, novice jewelers may confuse a natural stone with a synthetic one. If you are looking to buy spinel for investment, choose stones in red, blue and pink shades. Spinels with color changes will also work well.

Orange spinel

Orange spinel is very rare, especially a pure-colored mineral. More often, stones with a red or yellow tint are found. Thanks to its bright and rich hue, orange spinel looks good in yellow gold jewelry. Spinel in orange or orange-red tones can be found under the name “rubicell”. The stone is characterized by a light and almost neon color; dark versions are not found.

blue spinel

Blue spinel is one of the rarest varieties. Its color can vary from bright, almost neon, to rich dark blue. Sometimes there are stones with a grayish or purple tint. In addition, you can find blue spinel on the market, which changes color depending on the light. The same spinel with color change that we mentioned above. If the blue color is caused by the presence of cobalt in the chemical composition of the stone, then such a spinel is called “cobalt”. Other varieties are also found under the names “ganospinel” and “ganite”. You should beware of dark, opaque, overly thick stones – their investment value is lower than that of clean ones.

Blue spinel

Blue spinel is quite rare. And the most rare stones are those painted in a sky-neon color. Most of these specimens were mined at the Luk Yen deposit in Vietnam. Due to its rarity, blue neon spinel rarely finds its way onto the jewelry market – most stones end up in private collections.

Purple spinel

Purple spinel is quite widespread. She looks very elegant and delicate in jewelry. Sometimes a pure purple hue is complemented by pink or steel-gray tones. Light lilac and lavender stones are also characterized by interesting dispersion – the play of light on the edges.

Black and gray spinel

Black spinel is a common semi-precious stone, which is especially widely used in jewelry and silver jewelry. It is characterized by a rich, uniform color. The cut specimens look like a black diamond, and the polished surface shines with a glassy sheen.

Green spinel

Green spinel is formed when chlorine is included in the mineral. It is very rare and therefore remains poorly studied. The color of the stone ranges from bright neon to dark green, often with a grayish tint. In most cases, it does not have jewelry attractiveness. Due to its chlorine content, this stone is also known as “chrome spinel”. – there was a mistake in the naming

White (colorless) spinel

White spinel looks absolutely colorless and transparent, making it look like a diamond. However, there are stones with a slight pink, gray or lavender tint, the intensity and tone of which depend on the lighting. Due to its brilliant brilliance and clarity, white spinel is often used as a cheaper substitute for diamonds in inexpensive jewelry. However, the play of light in it is much more modest than that of diamonds.


Spinel is easy to cut and polish, creating stones with intense shine. In addition, this mineral is characterized by high dispersion (the decomposition of light into individual tones). However, this phenomenon occurs mainly in stones with unsaturated colors – gray, light pink, blue. Intense red, blue and pink specimens do not have high dispersion. In most cases, spinel is cut in the following ways: Circle, Marquise, Trillion and Heart cuts are much less common. Interestingly, making sets and composite jewelry with spinel is a fairly complex process. Especially if the manufacturer wants to use large stones weighing more than 2 carats. Spinel is characterized by variability in shades, so choosing several specimens of the same color can be quite difficult. Therefore, composite and complete jewelry inlaid with spinel have an additional markup of 30 to 100%, depending on the complexity of the color. However, choosing a set of small (weighing up to 2 carats) stones of a common shade – for example, gray – is not difficult.

Spinel purity

Spinel is a fairly common semi-precious stone, but only a small part of the specimens found are of jewelry quality and are suitable for cutting. The main requirement is high purity. However, a small amount of inclusions is allowed – gases, liquids, minerals. Small feathers in the form of cracks that do not spoil the appearance of the spinel are also acceptable. However, if the defects are large and noticeable, the value of this stone is significantly reduced.

How to distinguish real spinel from a fake

With the growing demand for spinel in the jewelry market, the number of fakes has also increased. For counterfeiting, cubic zirconia, sitall and glass are often used, posing as this valuable stone. In addition, there is an artificial analogue – synthetic spinel, which is grown in laboratories using the Verneuil, Czochralski or Flux method. Scientists can produce stones of various colors – white (colorless), green, blue, red, pink, purple and so on. The easiest way to distinguish natural spinel from synthetic spinel is in a laboratory where special analysis equipment is used. Garnets, tourmalines, zircon hyacinths and fancy sapphires can also be sold under the guise of spinel. All spinel jewelry presented in our stores are inlaid with exclusively genuine and natural stones. We checked it personally. Also, some specimens are accompanied by conclusions from gemological laboratories about authenticity. 8 (800) 201-77-04
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About spinel

Spinel, especially in red and blue colors, is a historically important gemstone. Because it was often found along with corundum in gem deposits and had a similar color range, luster and hardness, it has been unknowingly used as sapphire and especially ruby ​​to this day. The famous “Black Prince’s Ruby”, which is part of the Crown Jewels of England, is actually a red spinel. With the advent of modern methods of gemological identification and separation in the late 19th century, spinel became a distinct species.

In another essay, I called malachite the “Rodney Dangerfield” gemstone, but perhaps that description is even more apt for spinel. In the early 20th century, shortly after Auguste Verneuil invented the flame melting process to make synthetic sapphire, synthetic spinel was made using the same method. For many years, if the public knew about spinel at all, it was an imitation, found in stone jewelry and schoolchildren’s rings. It is true that synthetic materials are as common as dirt and almost as cheap, but fine natural spinel is and always has been a rare gem. It was only recently, as consumer gemological awareness began to rise, that spinel finally “gained some respect.” This increased recognition is due not only to the gemstone’s inherent rarity and beauty, but also to the fact that virtually all spinels on the market today are unimproved. As more information becomes available about extensive and invasive treatments for lower grade ruby ​​and sapphire to “uplift” their color or clarity, spinel’s natural beauty and still relatively modest prices are becoming increasingly attractive.

Spinel, which is traditionally found in Burma (Myanmar) and Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and more recently at various sites in Vietnam, Africa, Russia and Australia, is mined not from the primary hard rocks in which it forms, but from alluvial rocks. or placer deposits where eroded material is washed downstream. This “gem gravel” can be made up of several different types in addition to spinel, but what they have in common is that spinning and flipping smoothes the rough crystals into rounded shapes, and in the process removes most of the embedded and broken parts of the gemstone. rude. This alluvial roughness produces a good cutting material – it has a good shape for extraction and is relatively clean. Mining methods range from primitive to low-tech (from one or more miners with their straw baskets washing the gravel of a stream, to the use of excavators and hydraulic hoses to remove overburden from long buried channels and supply more water to separate the gems using a small crew) .

When spinel is found in situ (often in metamorphic sediments), one of the most beautiful crystal “habits” is the octahedron. You may know that diamonds also occur naturally in this form, which only appears in gemstones belonging to the cubic crystal system. In my opinion, the shining octahedron of red spinel is one of the most beautiful works of nature.

Spinel is an example of an “allochromatic” gemstone. This means that when the mineral in this case (MgAl2O4) is pure, it is colorless – the different colors appear only due to the presence of trace elements acting as chromophores, for spinel these are most often chromium, iron and cobalt. Most gemstones fall into this category: for example, corundum (sapphire and ruby), topaz, quartz and beryl are colorless varieties that are formed without the “impurities” that determine the color.

For most allochrome gemstones, the colorless type is the most common and therefore the least valuable. Compare, for example, the value of a top quality 5ct emerald (green beryl) with an equally fine 5ct goshenite (colorless beryl). Those tiny traces of chromium or vanadium that give emerald its vibrant green color drive up the price by at least 100 times that of the pure mineral beryl. A similar illustration can be made with ruby ​​versus white sapphire or amethyst versus quartz rock crystal. Spinel is an exception to this rule. Until recently, colorless spinel was not found in nature. Laboratory production was easily possible (colorless spinel can be prepared by the bucketful), but apparently the conditions under which this gemstone is formed in nature rarely exclude coloring trace elements, making the colorless natural stone a rare and valuable gemstone to collect! And spinel does come in many colors: all shades of pink, lavender, red, red-orange, purple, blue and even black. The only part of the spectrum that seems to be missing is pure green and yellow.


By far the most common colors, and therefore the least expensive, are lavender pinks and grayish light purples. (I have a gardener friend who once described this mauve color as the “Garden of Eden” because, left to their own devices, most of her fancy-colored hybrids would stitch themselves together and become “wild types” of that particular color.) The Difference in color (and therefore value) between the two spinel ring stones below is mainly due to “saturation”. The term is often thought not to mean depth or darkness, but instead refers to the absence of grays and browns, that is, the spectral purity of color. In the world of gemstone pricing, saturation is a major factor. You can easily expect to pay 5-10 times more for the true red carat on the right than for the less intense pink on the left.

In purples and blues, spinel is most often a relatively steely or grayish color or a fairly dark shade, which brings down the price. Nowadays, even though spinel is starting to rise in popularity, it is still an excellent gemstone. I hope this happy situation continues, but honestly, my advice is to buy spinel now before the rest of the gem consumer really catches on and prices go through the roof.

Use of Jewelry
Regardless of color, spinel’s high refractive index provides excellent shine to a well-cut and polished stone, and its hardness of 8 makes it a good choice for almost all jewelry, including rings. I still don’t recommend it for a high Tiffany type setting in an engagement or signature ring that will be worn XNUMX/XNUMX for years, but for any less demanding use it is a wonderful gemstone. No special cleaning or care instructions apply.

Most spinel jewelry for sale today comes in pink and red colors. I expect this to change as African spinels of varying colors have a greater impact on the market. By the way, black spinel is a less expensive substitute for black diamond and a more durable, if more expensive, alternative to black onyx. Spinel beads are relatively rare on the market, but are sometimes sold by sellers who specialize in higher quality items.

The most valuable spinels are red with purple-red (ruby spinel) and orange-red (known as flame spinel) colors, which command high prices. Top quality red spinels are actually rarer than top quality rubies, although not as expensive. The Burmese origin of gemstones always adds value.

As with all stones, the highest values ​​are for the rich rich colors of clear stones and larger sizes. Pink spinels in shades ranging from bubblegum to hot pink are in demand. Blue and purple, unless the color is very saturated, usually have a more modest price. Among blue stones, those colored with cobalt are especially valued for their pure, rich color. Star stones and color-changing varieties are rare in this species and are highly prized. In general, it can be assumed that spinels have not been improved at present, although gemologists are closely monitoring new developments in this direction.

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