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Seeing red at auction – record breaking Spinel

Spinel is beautiful, brilliant and rare, as well as great value for money.

Deep mesmerising red spinel (9ct stone)
A 50 carat spinel was sold for £962,500 to a private telephone bidder at Bonhams in 2015.  This was not any stone, but a highly important, and rare, historical gemstone: the Hope Spinel, which had not been for sale in 98 years.

Perhaps this was the gem equivalent of Halley’s comet, as such stones do not come onto the market very often. As such this increases their perceived importance and thus the desire to own them.  So, as a result it achieved a new world record for a spinel at auction, selling for an eye-watering £962,500 to a private telephone bidder.

So it could be argued this contradicts the title of this post, being that  I’m saying Spinel is both a great ruby alternative, and great value for money. I stand by this though. If you are looking for a stone that is perhaps a little more austere to the gem sold by Bonhams, then this really is one to consider.

So why am I so excited about spinel?  It is probably down to the stone pictured, and also the colour.  Red is undisputably my favourite colour and as such I’d always had a romantic love for the idea of the ruby.  More precious stone interactions and I’m not quite as enamoured of a lot of what I’d call ‘garden variety’ rubies, they are more pink in their hues.  I have seen beautiful deep blood red stones, and then learned about the prices and had to go and have a lie down.  They are the one stone which is on a par with diamonds when it comes to price for the good stones.

So that brings us nicely back to the ruby’s quieter cousin, spinel.  It is not the same mineral, but it is often found amongst sapphire and ruby deposits, so clearly forms under similar conditions.

Spinel is a great stone for jewellery, being nearly as hard wearing as the aforementioned stones. The other great thing about it, is that for a good stone, when it is polished up it can produce something nearer fire and brilliance of a diamond.

Spinel is not just red. It comes in deep pinks, cobalt blues, greens and yellows. Unlike sapphires which come from the mineral corundum, spinel is a mineral in its own right.

Could it be used in an engagement ring? Yes, quite easily. Its facets will stay sharp over time, and as previous mentioned, exceptional stones will have a fire all of their own.  The other great thing about it is that unlike a lot of gemstones, spinel is rarely heated or irradiated to influence colour and is cut and polished in its’ natural state. It should be noted that like sapphires, it will scratch if the stone isn't respected, so the setting should be carefully considered.

Pricing wise, it is in general quite cost effective under three carats.  Stones will go from a few hundred pounds depending on their quality.  As larger stones are very rare the price can go racing up, hence the Hope Spinel cost.  The stone pictured is actually a 9 carat cushion – hence the large size (it is 13mm wide) and quite stunning.  This means it is also so far north of a few hundred pounds it has probably taken off – being worth over ten thousand pounds!  However, compare that with a ruby of that size, which would be talking millions..

So, for a more conservative one to two carats, prices are more likely to be in the high hundreds/low thousand for exceptional stones.  Some fantastic jewellery designs just waiting to be made with these gemstones.  The challenge for aspiring spinel owners, is that word is getting out about this gemstone, which is unfortunately driving price. 

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