Spinels: An Introduction

Posted by IngGems Singapore on

Quick Introduction of Spinels; Facts About Refraction Index and Hardness 

Spinels are relatively unknown in Singapore. Ask anyone about gemstones and usually, the 3 precious gemstones will be easily mentioned. Ask about spinels and the conversation usually dies. That is probably going to be the case for the near future for the general public. However, for collectors and gemstone lovers, spinels are gaining huge popularity, even among fashion labels like Louis Vuitton with their range of exquisite jewellery. 

To get facts straight, spinels are slightly softer than sapphires at 7.5 - 8.0 hardness on the Mohs scale which also puts it on par with emeralds. At this hardness, having spinels set as rings for daily wear is perfectly fine as nothing less than a sapphire or a diamond will be able to scratch the gemstone. Also, another factor worth noting is its refractive index. Spinels have a refractive index of about 1.7 and this is about the same as sapphires. A gemstone’s refractive index affects the stone’s brilliance optimised by faceting of the gemstone. As such, a higher index would allow a gemstone to glimmer in a higher range of angles and, be brilliant. Thus, as a gemstone for jewellery, spinels are very similar to sapphires, but rarer and much less heard of. 

Colours of Spinels and Why They Interest

Spinels exist naturally in a large spectrum of colours. Most notably, spinels are known for being famously mistaken as rubies for a really long time. A quick search online on how spinels were found will tell you some of the most famous “rubies” in the world were only recently identified to be spinels. However, red spinels are probably the most sought after spinels in the market today. 

Shades of Red 

In the realm of gemstones, colour is not really that simple. A singular colour red, can be further classified into a lot more categories like pinkish red, orangish red, purplish red with red as the base colour. Switching it over, red can also exist in reddish pink, reddish orange, etc. The purest of reds are the most expensive of spinels with the exception of the famed cobalt blue spinels from Vietnam which, have not passed this writer’s physical eyes before. Thus, back to red spinels. Red spinels rival the colour of the most beautiful rubies and from a naked eye, are as beautiful as the most exclusive rubies available in the market. 

Investment Value of Spinels

So here the topic of gemstone purchasing, and collection is to be visited. For collection, spinels present themselves as a good gemstone to buy. There are many reasons for it, other than the physical appearance of spinels. But the main reason looking at spinels is the fact that spinels that can be bought today, eye clean or even loupe clean and at incredible colours, especially red, are at a fraction of the price sapphires or rubies are at now. To have a 3ct vivid red, unheated ruby, would in Singapore’s context be the cost of a small car. But to purchase a spinel at a superior quality, notably colour and clarity, would be at a fraction of that cost. To have a gemstone that is truly worthy to be kept for life, a gamble of the inherent value of the gemstone might seem whimsical, but might really be a risk worthy to invest in. 

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