As one of the first to source from Vietnam in 1989 we have amounted the largest collection of superior Spinels to offer our exclusive clients.
Spinels may seem like a recent phenomenon, but their story is as old, as the gems they were mistaken for in the West: RUBIES. Before the Mughals, the gemstones traditionally valued by the natives of Hindustan (India) were rubies, pearls and diamonds. When the Mughal emperor Humayun, returned to Hindustan (India) in the mid-16th century, after 15 years of exile in Persia (Iran), he brought the influence of Persian art & culture, which valued spinels above all gems. As explained by author and historian A. S. Melikian-Chirvani in a 2001 paper, “In Persian culture, red stones were admired because they evoked the light of dusk that filled the sky when the sun had just sunk below the horizon.” These spinels found in many historical collections primarily came from the Kuh-i-Lal mines, which are now in Tajikistan or from Burma. The geographic origin was why many believe spinels were first called ‘Balas-Ruby’ or ‘Balkh-Ruby’. According to a 1996 book by professors A. and S. Biswas however, they proposed that the term was derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Balasuryaka’, meaning the crimson-coloured morning sun.
While the East understood and appreciated the beauty of spinels, for the longest time, the West incorrectly labelled them as rubies (example: Timur Ruby in the English crown). As the science of mineralogy developed in the West, the ‘Balas Ruby’ was correctly identified as a separate mineral, and renamed ‘spinel’. Spinel comes from the Latin word ‘spina’ meaning ‘thorn’, courtesy it’s natural octahedral or double pyramid shape. With the passage of time and fading memories of their esteemed position, spinels became known as the “dealer’s stone” because gem merchants tried in vain to promote it to their customers, who were unfamiliar with the new name and its history. Market sentiment, however, changed in 2007, when an artisanal miner digging in a farmer’s field outside the Tanzanian town of Mahenge, found a pink/red Spinel crystal. Many believe this discovery was responsible for reigniting the desire for this precious gemstone.
We started specialising in Spinels over 15 years ago. This early focus gave us a first-mover advantage in a competitive environment creating deep-rooted relationships with miners and quality suppliers in the source countries. The years spent studying and understanding the material has led to the development of our superior quality of cutting with spinels.
Our co-founder, Joe Belmont, shares his insights, “Spinels are the perfect blend of the sparkle of diamonds and the vibrant nature of a coloured gem. Since they belong to the cubic crystal system (like diamonds), they singly refract light, or light enters the stone in a single line and exits the same way, making their appearance constant in terms of colour. For example, red spinels are fluorescent like rubies and glow in the UV light of the sun during the day. Our objective with this material is to cut it in a manner where we enable our clients to enjoy the gem not only during the day but also capitalise its ability to hold colour in the dim evening light and shine bright like a diamond.”
Some other points to highlight regarding spinels are as follows:
- Versatility – Rating 8 to 8.5 on the MOH’s hardness scale, spinels work for all categories of jewellery, offering great possibilities to designers.
- Colour Preferences:
- When it comes to colour, red spinels are the most coveted and Cobalt blue spinels are the rarest. In top-grade, red spinels can fetch the same price as an untreated ruby.
- Vivid pink that is loupe clean, good cutting in 1 to 6 carat can be the equal value as pink sapphire (no heat) in bright pink colour.
- Other coveted colours are the electric cobalt blue (probably the rarest) mainly found in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, the highly fluorescent ‘man-sin’ spinel from Burma (Jedi spinel), hot pink ‘Mahenge spinels’ from Tanzania.
- The grey spinels have recently become popular among jewellery designers with some in the industry terming them as ‘Dior-grey’.
- Other colours popular in the growing spinel-segment are: orange, bluish-green, blue, lavender, purple and paler pinks, black and unusual mixtures of different hues.
- Some spinels also display colour-change effect and asterism/star effect when cut in a cabochon style.
While most remain untreated, the growing popularity of spinels is tempting the marketplace to experiment with treatments. At KV Gems, we specialise only in top-grade, untreated spinels, delivering the most exceptional quality, exhibiting superior cuts and polish. We believe the prominence of spinels will only grow with the increasing auctions of historic spinel-laden jewellery and as more fall under its hypnotic spell.