Spinel is a hard vitreous magnesium aluminium oxide that has been used as a gemstone for centuries. The beauty of spinel has caused it to be mistaken for ruby and sapphire in the past. However, spinel deserves to be recognized as a gemstone that is worthy of appreciation in its own right. Spinel occurs in a range of colours, such as rose pink to rich red; lavender to deep violet; light to deep blue, orange, yellow, brown and black.
The name spinel is thought to have come from either the Latin word, "spina", meaning thorn, due to its pointed crystal form, or the Greek word for "spark", in reference to its bright colour. Spinel has been mined for centuries and one of the most famous historical spinel gemstones is known as "the Black Prince's Ruby". As the name suggests, this is a red gemstone, which was thought to be a ruby. The "Black Prince's Ruby" was acquired by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1367. It is set into England's state crown and is held at the Tower of London.
Spinel occurs with ruby and sapphire, and significant deposits have been found in Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and Thailand. Other locations where spinel deposits have been found are Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Nepal, Nigeria, Tadzhikistan, Tanzania and the USA.