Blue spinel (in English)

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Photo: LOFT.bijoux

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After my recent Instagram post of a custom ring with blue spinel I had lots of questions and inquiries about the gem, so I decided to write a blog to give you a bit more detailed information.

I already wrote a bit about spinels in general, time came to be more specific.

Spinel is a gem known very well in high and designer jewelry and completely inexistent in mass-market simply because it is impossible to make a mass production with spinels – you can’t get enough of them in the same shapes and colors.

CHARACTERISTICS

Spinel offers a range of hues and colours, from pastel pink, grey, lavender to orange, neon red, vibrant “jedi” pink, all shades of purple, thunder grey, violet, blue from “sapphire blue” to cobalt blue.

Photo: GIA. Spinel

The hardness of spinel is 8 out of 10 on the Mohs scale which puts it straight after diamonds and sapphires/rubies as one of the hardest gems, making it great for rings, for example. As we know, of all the jewels, rings have the hardest life, with more danger of physical damage.

In addition to its hardness, spinel is single refractive (as diamonds), have a high refractive index and a high level of dispersion, which, on non-gemology language means that they will be very brilliant in well-made faceted cuts and display the color sharply and beautifully.

Spinels are often eye-clean, with no or very few visible inclusions.

Photo: GIA. The Luc Yen district of Vietnam has become a major source of top-quality blue spinel. Photo by J.B Senoble; © Senoble & Bryl.

Let’s return to blue spinel. It is a very rare color. While I see more often grey, purple, rose spinels, sometimes blueish with grey or purple reflections or color-changes, it’s really rare to find a well-saturated blue color. When we were making this custom ring, we were literally selecting from two gems that were available at the moment. While you can often see in my Instagram Stories the process of selecting, let’s say, sapphires where I might have a whole tray.

MINING

Blue spinels are mined in the exotic parts of the world - Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Madagascar, Myanmar, Vietnam. The gem in our ring comes from Madagascar. The famous (and more expensive) provenance for blue and, particularly, cobalt blue spinels is Vietnam, just the fact of that provenance can add up to 40% to the price.

Photo: GIA. Primary and secondary deposits, Vietnam. Photos by Boris Chauviré.

Mining of blue spinels is artisanal, done by locals with hand tools. Sometimes it will be the primary mountain deposits, but in most cases the secondary deposits of old river beds, where gems got washed from their primary deposits. In secondary deposits, blue spinel is found together with ruby, red spinel, sapphire, tourmaline, and occasionally gold.

Photo: GIA. Blue spinel from Luc Yen, Vietnam in its marble host. Photo by Vincent Pardieu/GIA.

AVAILABILITY

The main thing with blue spinels is that there are really not many gems available. We get them from time to time, but it won’t be a similar freedom as with sapphires. I call it “freedom”, but even with sapphires the research is not easy. Though, when you come to me and tell: “I want an oval sapphire of this size and color” in most cases I will be able to get you at least some selection close to your demand. With blue spinels the situation is more like: “I have one blue spinel” or “I don’t have any”.

Photos: LOFT.bijoux. Gems are hard to photograph, to catch the real color. The real color in our ring is closer to the first image, but more deep and intense

TREATMENTS

While there are certain treatments that exist to alter the color or the apparent clarity of spinels (for example, the heat treatment), it’s not very present with spinels compared to, let’s say, sapphires (where 95% of the gems are treated). From my supplies so far, all spinels have been untreated, but if I get anything with a treatment, it will, obviously, be a treatment officially accepted by the trade and will be disclosed to the buyer.

PRICES

Grey, lavender, pastel pink spinels are available I’d say, from 300$ and up for 1ct+ (~5.5mm if we talk about rounds). The price range can really go high, I am only writing here the beginning. The exact price can be influenced by the color (its intensity and hue), provenance, size and many other factors.

Blue spinels, close to the sapphire blue color as you see in this ring, are often getting close to sapphire prices, can be even higher. I’d say, we start at ~1000$ per carat.

When we talk about cobalt blue spinel, these gems are often very tiny, it’s rare to get even half a carat. You might pay 10 000-15 000$ for a 4mm gem. I saw an incredible cobalt blue spinel of 1.5ct at 60 000 USD at one of my suppliers. Cobalt blue spinel is a very hypnotic story. You can never confuse it with anything else, it’s a very particular visual experience. It feels like something that came from another planet and is luminating in the dark.

Photo: GIA. Vietnam’s spinel production. Photo by Robert Weldon/GIA, courtesy of Palagems.com

Returning to more realistic blue spinels, I’d suggest to think of a similar budget as a blue sapphire ring, if you want a nice blue spinel. And be prepared to wait till the gem shows up from the earth!

And just to indulge, adding some photos of the inclusions in blue spinel (photos inside the gems made under a high resolution microscope).

All photos: Lotus Gemology Lab. Inclusions in blue spinel

~

LOFT.bijoux is an independent jewelry atelier-boutique in Montreal (Canada). We specialize on custom jewelry with precious gemstones. Our gems come from all over the world, our jewels are made locally.

The whole experience, from selecting your gem (a diamond as well as a colored precious stone) to design and production is fully personalized. Priority is given to ethical gems and metals. Our main competences are in sapphires of all colors, emeralds, spinels and diamonds but our jewelers and gemmologists will be happy to help with all your precious demands!


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