While Myanmar is well known for its amazing rubies and sapphires, most people are unaware that it is also the home of amazing spinel. Or even what spinel is. When I arrived here a few years ago I was definitely in that category. Spinel? What the hell is that? And why would I want to buy it when Myanmar is has fabulous rubies?
Spinel has in fact long been confused with ruby. Many famous rubies, including some in the British Crown jewels, have actually turned out to be spinel. It wasn’t until recent modern scientific techniques allowed scientists and gemologists to closely study the structure and composition of gems that they discovered the difference between spinel and rubies. For starters, spinel is not as hard or as dense as corundum (which is the stuff rubies and sapphires are made out of). For you budding gemologists, spinel also has a different crystal structure, belonging to the cubic system and is singly refractive (unlike corundum).
Spinel comes in a wide range of colours from red, pink, and orange to purple, violet and blue-green. Intense reds and pinks are caused by traces of chromium. Orange and purple stones owe their colour to a mixture of iron and chromium. Red spinel is popular as it is often used as a less expensive substitute for ruby. But some of the most prized, and expensive, spinels are neon pink.
And so why should you buy spinel? Well, for starters it is beautiful. But spinel is also fast becoming a hot global gem commodity. Global average prices for spinel have consistently risen in recent years, while ruby and sapphire have fluctuated due to changes in the supply of quality gems available. A world record price for spinel was set last year, with the 50 carat plum coloured ‘Hope Spinel’ selling for over USD $30,000 per carat. Yet spinel is still much more affordable than ruby or sapphires. And did you know that spinel is now also the birthstone of August and the 22nd wedding anniversary gemstone? Well now you do.
Myanmar is home to particularly amazing spinels, which are formed in the same rock formations as Mogok’s famous rubies and sapphires but also in other areas including Namya and Man Sin. Now that access to Myanmar mines and gems is opening up, global demand for these beautiful gems (and their price) will only increase.
At Mia Ruby we have some beautiful jewellery featuring juicy coloured spinel, including rings, earrings, pendants, bracelets and bangles. Check them out!