Spinel Education

Spinel Overview

One of history's most popular yet unknown gemstones is spinel. It is a variety of the mineral spinel group for which it shares its name. Much like sapphires, spinel can be found in a wide variety of colors and hues. While spinel bears very little name-recognition compared to other precious gemstones, it has recently become a very popular addition to many fine jewelry and personal collections, mainly due to its wide variety of vibrant colors, historical prominence, and excellent value.

The most popular spinel is red spinel, though it can be found in a wide array of vibrant colors such as pink, blue, green, yellow, and brown. As with other gemstones, the color variety is due to the presence of certain trace elements, as well as the strength of that presence. For example, different levels of the trace element chromium will result in either red, pink, or orange spinel. Green spinel occurs when the trace element iron is present. The variety of colors available makes spinel a popular choice and a possible alternative to more expensive gemstones.

Spinel lack of recognition is due to the fact that up until the 18th century, red spinel and rubies were classified as the same gemstone. Many famous rubies throughout history have actually turned out to be red spinel. The famous 170 carat Black Prince's Ruby is not only the centerpiece of the Imperial Crown of England, but it is also a red spinel! Many other famous "rubies" in royal crown jewels are also red spinel. However, despite the two gemstones being recognized as geologically distinctly different, spinel has maintained a relatively unknown gemstone throughout the world. Lately, better marketing and increased interest in ruby and sapphire alternatives have ignited public interest in spinel and have quickly made it a must-have for many collectors.

As spinel has maintained its low profile, its excellent value has only increased. Spinel is very rare, but other gemstones have been more in demand due to their name recognition and thus have allowed jewelers to offer spinel at much more attractive prices. However, the price of spinel will only continue to increase as its popularity continues to grow. In the last few years there has been a surge of spinel purchases from those looking to grow an investment, or simply wish to add a beautiful and rare gemstone while they still can.

On the Mohs scale of hardness, spinel ranks an 8 out of 10, making it one of the hardest gemstones in the world. This hardness and durability makes it a very attractive choice for those looking to set their spinel in jewelry, especially in engagement rings as it is able to withstand most of the wear and tear of daily life.

Spinel Quality and Pricing Factors

Quality of a spinel is predicated on three important factors: color, clarity and transparency. Pricing and quality are directly correlated, however origin and weight also impact the value of a spinel, as discussed below.


Color is the most important quality factor for a spinel and is the primary driver of value. General rule is that as color saturation of a spinel increases, the value increases. However, as the spinel color becomes oversaturated and eventually opaque, the price drops substantially. A very light color spinel and an overly dark/opaque spinel will generally command a similar price. Below is GemsNY's own color grading system for the various different spinel color types:

Red Spinel Color Intensity

Blue Spinel Color Intensity


Colored gems do not have a standardized grading system and it is extremely rare to find a spinel with no eye visible imperfections. This is in stark contrast to Diamonds who have a standardized grading system and utilize magnification to inspect clarity. In the wholesale trade we evaluate spinel clarity using the following methodology::

(1)Holding the spinel face up 12 inches from the observer's eye

(2)Tilting them in various directions to visually inspect if any inclusions are visible

(3)Only imperfections viewable on the crown (top part of the gemstone) are inspected and not the pavilion (back side)

Below are the clarity gradings for spinel we utilize and are commonly used by most of our jeweler customers:

Grading Description
Eye Clean 100% clean to the eye, but not necessarily under magnification
Very Slightly Included Very tiny inclusions are eye visible under close inspection or when tilting the gem
Slightly Included Tiny inclusions are eye visible
Moderately Included Inclusions are eye visible
Included Significant inclusions are eye visible

Cut / Transparency

Lapidary's cut spinel according to the shade of the spinel rough material to get the desired color (the primary price driver). Darker material is cut shallower to allow more light to go through the gem, while lighter material is cut deeper to allow the spinel to hold in more light and increase saturation. Cutting spinel is an art and requires years of experience.

Transparent gems are the most valuable and allow one to see the true richness of color. The catch-22 with transparent gems is that it is much easier to view imperfections. Finding a spinel transparent and eye clean is truly rare. Over-saturation of color leads a gem to be semi-transparent as less light is allowed to escape. Opaque gems tend to be eye clean, but may appear as black.

Carat / Measurements

The weight of a gemstone is measured in a unit called carats (cts.). There are 5 carats in 1 gram. As discussed above, a spinel can be cut deep or shallow to maximize the color of the spinel. A deep cut 1 carat spinel will appear visually smaller than a 1 carat shallow spinel. For this reason, it is best to judge a spinel based on millimeter measurements (length and width) and not carat weight.

Click here for our Stone Size Chart which you can print to see the actual sizes of various shapes

Click here for our Stone Size Tool where you can input various measurements to see a basic rendering of centerstone sizes relative to your finger - particularly useful if you are planning to mount the gem in a ring.

Please Note: The carat weight listed on the website for pairs is the combined total weight of the two gemstones.


Spinels are mined in various locations around the world. All origins produce high and low quality gemstones. The origin of the spinels can have an impact on its value, primarily in the higher quality. Low quality spinels will not receive a premium even though they are mined from a rare and prestigious origin.

Spinels from desired mines such as Burma will carry a premium over spinels from other origins. The premium grows as the quality and size/weight of a gemstone increases. For most customers origin should not factor into the decision making process. All origins produce low, medium and high quality gemstones. It is more important to find the quality of the gemstone you want than the origin.


Currently there are no known accepted Spinel treatments or enhancements in the industry. All Spinels should be advertised as untreated or with no enhancements. Any treatments applied to Spinels are not accepted by reputable jewelers and should be avoided.

Care Instructions

Spinels are very easy to take care of due to their hardness and durability. To keep your spinel jewelry sparkling you may want to clean it to remove the unwanted dirt and residue build up. Here are a few care tips to keeping your spinel jewelry clean and shiny.

1) Avoid contact with make-up, harsh chemicals (i.e. chlorine and bleach), moisturizers and abrasives. Best to take jewelry off when in contact with these items. Never swim or bathe with your jewelry on. It is also best to avoid hard impact activities that may scratch or chip the spinel such as exercising and gardening.

2)Clean your spinel by pouring lukewarm water in a bowl and mixing with mild cleaning detergent. Submerge your jewelry until the dirty and residue is moistened. Then use a soft toothbrush to clean the underside of the spinel. Once clean, rinse and dry with a soft cloth. For extremely dirty jewelry, you may need to repeat the process.

3) Store your spinel jewelry individually and avoid contact with other jewelry to prevent scratching. Keep the spinel away from heat and direct sunlight. For every day rings (such as engagement rings), we recommend a weekly rudimentary check to ensure the center gem is not loose. Take off the ring and shake next to the ear (can also tap) and see if you hear rattling. If you do, immediately stop wearing and get tightened.

4) We highly recommend an annual maintenance on your spinel jewelry to have the gems tightened and jewelry professionally cleaned. This will ensure your jewelry lasts a lifetime.

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