Spinel. 4.13ct and 1.83ct.
Spinel structural group
|Color||Various; red to blue to mauve, dark green, brown, black|
|Crystal habit||Cubic, octahedral|
|Mohs scale hardness||7.5–8.0|
|Diaphaneity||Transparent to translucent|
|Other characteristics||Nonmagnetic, non-radioactive, sometimes fluorescent (red)|
Properties of true spinel
Spinel crystallizes in the isometric system; common crystal forms are octahedra, usually twinned. It has an imperfect octahedral cleavage and a conchoidal fracture. Its hardness is 8, its specific gravity is 3.5–4.1 and it is transparent to opaque with a vitreous to dull luster. It may be colorless, but is usually various shades of red, blue, green, yellow, brown, or black. There is a unique natural white spinel, now lost, that surfaced briefly in what is now Sri Lanka. Some spinels are among the most famous gemstones: Among them is the Black Prince's Ruby and the "Timur ruby" in the British Crown Jewels, and the "cote de Bretagne", formerly from the French Crown jewels. The Samarian Spinel is the largest known spinel in the world, weighing 500 carats (100 g).
The transparent red spinels were called spinel-rubies or balas rubies. In the past, before the arrival of modern science, spinels and rubies were equally known as rubies. After the 18th century the word ruby was only used for the red gem variety of the mineral corundum and the word spinel became used. "Balas" is derived from Balascia, the ancient name for Badakhshan, a region in central Asia situated in the upper valley of the Kokcha River, one of the principal tributaries of the Oxus River. The Badakshan Province was for centuries the main source for red and pink spinels.
Spinel has long been found in the gemstone-bearing gravel of Sri Lanka and in limestones of the Badakshan Province in modern day Afghanistan and of Mogok in Burma. Recently gem quality spinels were also found in the marbles of Luc Yen (Vietnam), Mahenge and Matombo (Tanzania), Tsavo (Kenya) and in the gravels of Tunduru (Tanzania) and Ilakaka (Madagascar). Spinel is found as a metamorphic mineral, and also as a primary mineral in rare mafic igneous rocks; in these igneous rocks, the magmas are relatively deficient in alkalis relative to aluminium, and aluminium oxide may form as the mineral corundum or may combine with magnesia to form spinel. This is why spinel and ruby are often found together.
Spinel, (Mg,Fe)(Al,Cr)2O4, is common in peridotite in the uppermost Earth's mantle, between approximately 20 km to approximately 120 km, possibly to lower depths depending on the chromium content. At significantly shallower depths, above the Moho, calcic plagioclase is the more stable aluminous mineral in peridotite, while garnet is the stable phase deeper in the mantle below the spinel stability region.
Synthetic spinel was accidentally produced in the middle of the 18th century, and has been more recently described in scientific publications in 2000 and 2004.
- The Samarian Spinel: the largest known spinel in the world, part of the Iranian Crown Jewels
- Black Prince's Ruby
- Deer, Howie and Zussman (1966). An Introduction to the Rock-Forming Minerals, Longman, pp. 424–433, ISBN 0-582-44210-9.
- Shumann, Walter (2006). Gemstones of the World 3rd edition, Sterling, pp. 116–117.
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