SPINEL

09555

Locality

Luc Yen, Yenbai Province, Vietnam

Dimensions (H x W x D)

8 x 9 x 5 cm

Weight

376 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 meant 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 noticeable in cut stones). Natural, uncut specimens that have their structures intact identify themselves with their different shapes; rubies have a trigonal system, while spinel is cubic. This is an excellent example of spinel with the coveted, “ruby-red” coloration. Sharply terminated, lustrous, and well-oriented, its cubic structure is clear and attractive in all the spinel crystals present. They sit perched atop a robust and lustrous matrix (host-rock) of stark, snow-white marble which heightens the pristine beauty and rich color of the spinel. Small, green pargasite crystals provide an added element of color to this stunning piece. A beautiful and rare example of the species, this specimen is an excellent example of its kind.

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