Mogok, Sagaing District, Mandalay Division, Burma

Dimensions (H x W x D)

4.4 x 4.5 x 4 cm


71 g

Description & Provenance

Spinel is a scarce mineral that can occur in a range of colors from pink to blue, green or brown, but it is most famous for its deep-red variety that closely resembles the “pigeon’s blood” red-tone of rubies. Red spinel and rubies can be very difficult to distinguish, their similarity of color and overlapping localities mean that for centuries, people simply believed that red spinel crystals were rubies. In fact, there was no distinction made between them until the late 19th century when red spinel was finally recognized as its own unique mineral species. Interestingly, even the famed “Black Prince’s Ruby,” one of the oldest pieces in the Crown Jewels of Great Britain, is a spinel that was misidentified. Despite their strong similarity, the two species have marked differences that can be identified by a trained eye. For one, rubies are dichroic, meaning they exhibit a shift in color depending on the angle at which they are viewed (a quality that is subtle and most evident in cut and polished gemstones). Secondly, spinel has a refractive index that, like diamonds and garnets, gives it a more vivid fire (also more noticeable in cut stones). Natural, uncut specimens with good crystal expression may identify themselves with their unique shapes; rubies with their trigonal system, and spinel with their cubic structure, which can be seen in this alluring example.

This is an exemplary spinel with a sumptuous, “ruby-red” coloration. Highly lustrous and translucent, the spinel gives off a fiery glow with just a hint of light. Paired with its sharply-terminated, octahedral form, the spinel crystal looks like a stunning gemstone, despite being completely natural. It sits upon a stark-white marble matrix (host rock). With its robust form and subtle luster, the marble looks like a compacted snowball. The opacity and light color of the marble heightens the pristine geometry and rich color of the spinel. Despite its petite, thumbnail-size, its striking contrast and fine aesthetics endow the piece with a lot of impact. It would make a lovely, representative example of this rare and coveted species.

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