Burmese Spinel Gemstone
Before earning renown as a gem in its own right, Burmese spinel was often mistaken for other gems, such as rubies or amethyst.
Spinel is a large group of minerals, with several gem varieties. It’s known as the “hidden gem,” for ancient cultures often confused brilliantly colored spinels for other gemstones such as ruby or amethyst. Before modern gemology, categorization of jewels occurred by color. Shop LC offers two breathtaking varieties of Burmese spinels – Burmese red spinel and Burmese lavender spinel.
What Color is Burmese Spinel?
Burmese red spinel has an attractive and deep red color, rivaling the ruby stones found in the same deposits. In particular, Myanmar (Burma) is well-known for its red and pink spinel. Burmese lavender spinel, on the other hand, possesses a subtle and enchanting purple hue. Both spinel gems feature a good saturation of color, making every stone an attractive option.
How Do I Care for Burmese Spinel?
Consider Burmese spinel if you want a gemstone to wear daily. The gem ranks eight on the Mohs scale of hardness, meaning it is suitably scratch-resistant. It also has a good durability and should survive the occasional bump with no problem. The stones are sometimes heat-treated to improve color. Normal jewelry care will keep stones sparkling, but it’s suggested to avoid chemical cleaners and long exposure to high heat or sunlight.
Why Should I Choose Burmese Spinel?
In general, spinels don’t occur in larger sizes. For the most part, stones above five carats are unusual, if not altogether rare. Burmese red spinels are a fun alternative to anyone who loves rubies and pyrope garnets, or even red andesine. Consider choosing Burmese lavender spinel if you appreciate other purple gems such as amethyst, purple garnet, or purple fluorite.
What is a Balas Ruby?
• Spinels are uncommonly seen gemstones as their corundum cousins tend to steal the limelight. For ages, lapidarists were confusing spinel for better-known stones – especially ruby. For the most part, early gemological understanding is to blame. Before modern methods of identifying gemstones, the primary method relied on the gemstone’s color. This lead to many gemstones identifying as a single kind of stone. In particular, red spinel was a victim of this ignorance. For this reason, all red gemstones in ancient times were known as “Balas rubies.” It wasn’t until about the 18th century that understanding began to shift.
• These Balas rubies were named for the primary sourcing location during this time. The stones were mined in Ancient Balascia, now modern day Badakhshan, Afghanistan. It produced many of the most famous Balas rubies of the Medieval Period. Among Medieval lapidaries, Balas ruby was one of the three kinds of carbuncle, including true rubies and red garnets. It was common for texts of the time to use these terms interchangeably.
• Many famous “rubies” are in fact red spinels! For instance, the Black Prince’s Ruby is not a ruby at all. It is a large red spinel. The well-known gem dates back to the 14th century when it was given to the Black Prince himself, otherwise known as Edward of Woodstock. Today the giant gemstone sits prominently in the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. It rests at the front of the crown. Besides its famous history, the Black Prince’s Ruby is notable for being the largest red spinel in the world. Its estimated weight is around 170 carats.
Location: Myanmar (Burma)
Spinels are rarely found in jewelry retail, as the gemstone is relatively unknown. However, the gem occurs in many locations around the world, and it’s found alongside corundum deposits of ruby and sapphire. The two stones share a similar composition.
Where is Burmese Spinel Found?
Shop LC sources Burmese red spinel and Burmese lavender spinel from Myanmar (Burma). It comes from the Mogok and Mong Hsu deposits. Both localities are well-known for their ruby production. Mogok, in particular, is famous for the quality of ruby gemstones that leave the mine.
How is Burmese Spinel Mined?
Mining Burmese spinel requires a combination of old and new techniques. The former Myanmar government previously introduced modern mining techniques to the country during their rule. These include earth-moving machines like bulldozers and high-pressure water cannons. Once the new democratic government took control of the country, many, if not most, of these techniques were abandoned in favor of traditional artisanal techniques. In modern times, most mining combines old and new in the pursuit of precious gemstones.
Like the more famous Burmese ruby, Burmese spinel occurs inside deposits of marble. Marble is very tough, so cutters are careful as they separate rough gemstones from the rock. Any mistakes are costly, potentially losing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in potential revenue. Spinel gemstones rarely reach larger sizes, and faceted stones of five carats or greater are extremely rare. For this reason, a lapidary will want to make sure every little bit counts.
• Burmese spinel ranks eight on the Mohs scale of hardness.
• Stones are known for their intense, passionate reds or soft lavender hues.
• Sourced from Mogok and Mong Hsu, Myanmar (Burma).
• Burmese spinel is heat treated to improve its color.
• Burmese red spinel may incorrectly be known as “Balas ruby” or carbuncle.