Jewelers of America and the American Gem Trade Association announced in June that they have added spinel to the official list of birthstones. Spinel has been named the second birthstone for the month of August, joining the yellow-green gemstone peridot.
This is only the third addition to the modern birthstone list since it was officially created in 1912 by the American National Retail Jewelers Association, now known as JA. In 1952 the organization added alexandrite (June), citrine (November), tourmaline (October), and zircon (December). In 2002 tanzanite was added as a third birthstone for December.
“At certain moments in history, when there is a strong call from gem enthusiasts to expand the list of official birthstones, Jewelers of America believes in recognizing the importance of historically significant gemstones and giving gemstone lovers a choice that suits their preferences,” JA President and CEO David Bonaparte told NationalJeweler.com.
The Great Imposter
Spinel has been revered by gemstone merchants since ancient times. For centuries it masqueraded as ruby in Europe’s crown jewels; in fact, it has been called “the great imposter” of gems. Balas ruby is another old name for a rose-tinted variety of spinel.
It wasn’t until the late 18th century that gemologists developed the technology necessary to distinguish spinel as a separate mineral from ruby. Since then, reports the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), “Increasing demand for ruby alternatives has rekindled appreciation for spinel’s rich red color and history.”
Famous Spinel Jewels
The famous “Black Prince Ruby,” set in the Imperial State Crown in the British Crown Jewels, is actually a 170-carat spinel.
A 398-carat red spinel sits atop the Imperial Crown of Russia, commissioned by Catherine the Great in 1763.
“The Timur Ruby,” a 361-carat red spinel now owned by Queen Elizabeth, has the names of some of the Mughal emperors who previously owned it engraved on its face.
A Modern-Day Favorite
No longer considered an imposter, spinel is today appreciated by gem dealers, jewelry designers and collectors for its brilliance, hardness and wide range of spectacular colors.
In addition to rich reds, spinel can be found in pastel shades of pink and purple. Vivid hot-pink stones with a tinge of orange are mined exclusively in Burma. Spinel also comes in beautiful blue tones called cobalt spinel, but these are extremely rare.
If you are celebrating a birthday in August – or know someone who is — consider buying a piece of jewelry in spinel, the new August birthstone!
Sources: NationalJeweler.com; Gemstone.org; Gia.edu