spinel gem colors
June 4, 2020

Spinel Gem Colors – An Introduction To All The Colors

Spinel is one of the most desirable semi-precious gemstones among gems and jewelry lovers. One of the main reasons for its popularity is the range of spinel gem colors. Therefore, I will put together all the main colors of spinels in this article.

Before going into the list of colors, I will briefly discuss few important historical facts about spinel and the general composition of spinel gemstone.

What is Spinel Gemstone?

Spinel is considered as one of the most underappreciated gems in the history. Long ago, spinels were either mistaken for rubies or sapphires. Some of the world’s most recognized spinels were initially thought to be rubies. The “Black Prince Ruby” in the imperial state crown (170 carats) and the “Timber Ruby” (350 carats) are two famous spinels that were mistaken as rubies for a very long time.

Spinel was identified as a different mineral to corundum (the mineral family of ruby and sapphire) by the mineralogist Jean Baptiste Louise Rome de Lisle in 1783. The value of spinels dropped after this discovery. But, spinels have managed to take back its deserved recognition partially due to the extreme high prices of rubies and sapphire, and also due to its fascinating range of colors and durability.

Given the list of colors, hardness and luster of faceted spinels, it is indeed surprising to think that it was not a valued gemstone until recently.

To show the black prince's ruby
image 1 : “Black Prince’s Ruby” on the English Imperial State Crown

Properties of Spinel

Spinel is an oxide mineral and its composition is MgAl2O4. It has a hardness of 8 in the Moh’s scale of hardness. Spinel is also a gemstone which has strong resistance to chemical and physical weathering.

With comparatively low prices to rubies and sapphire, spinel is an ideal gemstone to be used in jewelry.

Below table summarizes the properties of spinel.

Chemical Composition MgAl2O4
Hardness 8.0
Refractive Index 1.718
Crystal Structure Cubic
Specific Gravity 3.60

Spinel Gem Colors

The main colors of spinel are – Red, Orange, Pink, Purple, Blue, Grey and Black. White spinels also exists but quite rare. Certain hues in this color range has got specific trade names such as jedi spinel, cobalt spinel, lavender spinel, mahenge spinel and lilac spinel.

Green and yellowish green spinels are mostly synthetic spinels. Natural occurrences of these two colors are very rare. But, synthetic spinels do come in all other colors as well. Therefore, unless you are buying from a trusted source, it is always good to get a gem certificate, especially when you are buying an expensive spinel.

The difference in the trace elements as well as the positions of these elements in the structure of the spinel contributes to the differences in spinel gem colors.

Red Spinels

This is one of the most expensive spinel gemstones as it is a great alternative for rubies. The red color of the stone comes when chromium is present as a trace element. There is a range of colors that can fall into the category of red spinels, from pinkish red to pigeon blood-red.

Mogok Burma is the most popular source of the pure, pigeon blood-red spinels. The red spinels found in Sri Lanka and also in Tanzania usually does not have this rich red color. A Burmese red spinel with good saturation and medium tone can be a great alternative for Burmese rubies.

The red spinels from Sri Lanka usually has a slight pink hue but it is also a very eye-catching color. Red spinels from Sri Lanka are also comparatively expensive.

  • Jedi Spinels

This is a unique variation of red spinel. Jedi spinels contains a neon bright pinkish red which was first found from Namya, Burma.

image 2 : A Red Spinel

Blue Spinel

Blue spinel is the other most expensive spinel variety along with red spinels. Sri Lanka and Vietnam are the famous destinations for blue spinals. The blue color can vary between grayish blue, violet blue and a bright strong blue.

Iron is the trace element responsible for this blue color.

  • Cobalt Blue Spinel

A unique variation of blue spinel are cobalt blue spinel. When the element cobalt is mixed with iron, it results in a unique blue color. Both Sri Lanka and Vietnam produce cobalt blue spinels but the two colors are different due to differences in the iron and cobalt content.

The cobalt blue spinels from Sri Lanka has a more deep tone of blue while the ones from Vietnam has a bright blue color.

Due to the rarity of cobalt blue spinels, color diffused stones are common. Therefore, I recommend you to request for the certificate when purchasing one.

image 3 : A Blue Spinel

Pink Spinel

Pink spinel also comes from light pink to hot pink. A pink spinel can be categorized as a hot pink spinel when the saturation is high and there is a presence of faint red color.

Mahenge, Tanzania is a famous destination for a unique hot pink color spinels which are known in the trade name Mahenge spinel. Sri Lanka also produces a range of really beautiful pink spinels.

Chromium is the trace element responsible for the pink color of these spinels.

image 4 : A Pink Spinel

Grey Spinel

This is a stone which is probably becoming a new trend. One reason for the popularity could be the fact that the color of grey spinel is not found in any other gem variety. Most famous destinations for grey spinels are Sri Lanka and Burma.

Both chromium rich and iron rich spinels can produce grey tones due to certain differences in composition.

image 5 : A Grey Spinel

Purple Spinel

This is another very famous color of spinel. The color range from weak violet to strong violet and weak purple to strong purple and everything in between as well.

Iron the trace element responsible for purple spinel. Sri Lanka is a famous destination for a range for the full range of purple spinels.

Two variations of purple spinals are lavender spinal and lilac spinel. Lavender spinel has a stronger violet hue while lilac spinal has a lesser violet hue.

image 6 : A Pair of Lavender Spinel

Orange Spinel

Orange spinel also range between fiery red orange and bright orange. Chromium is the trace element which is responsible for the orange color. Mogok, Burma is the most famous destination for orange spinel.

image 7 : An Orange Spinel

White / Colorless Spinel

White or colorless spinels have been reported but it is rare. These spinels are colorless due to the absence of any coloring trace elements.

Color Change Spinel

Color change spinel are another rare spinel variety. In these spinels, the color changes from blue under a florescent light to a purple under an incandescent light.

Final Thoughts

Spinel is definitely one of the most desired semi-precious gemstone varieties. Its popularity is increasing and hence the prices as well. I won’t be surprised to see spinels becoming a precious gemstone in the near future.

Due to its increasing popularity, I thought it will be useful for many of our readers to learn about the range of spinel gem colors, which was the main intention of this article. The article briefly discussed about the chemical compositions responsible for each color as well.

Hope you liked it and I would be delighted to hear your thoughts.


You might also like the following articles

Natural Sapphire Colors

Rare Sapphire Colors

2 thoughts on “Spinel Gem Colors – An Introduction To All The Colors

  1. What a beautiful gem! Very interesting article, I only knew about the red ones. I don’t have any Spinels in my gem collection – that must change! Are there any sources that you recommend? Thank you! 🙂

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