Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23-79) in Natural History was highly skeptical of the curative power of gems. Nevertheless, he recorded the ancient beliefs. Ancients believed all red stones (garnet, ruby, and spinel) were good for curing bleeding and inflammation diseases. Later, it was believed spinel could detect if a person was supernatural. Gemological historians are uncertain as to how spinel was named. It may have come from "spark" in Greek, or "point" in Latin, or "thorn" in Italian. Spinel is associated with the planet Saturn.
What is interesting about spinel is the crown jewels of many monarchs gleam with spinel that were originally thought to be ruby. The most famous examples include The Black Prince Ruby, The Timur Ruby, the drop-shaped spinels in the Wittelsbacher Crown, the 105 carat red in the Louve in Paris, King Henry the Eighth's "ruby collar", the 414.30 spinel in the Imperial Russian crown (which was mounted for Princess Catherine), and the spinels in the Persian Crown Jewels in Teheran. All these stones were once believed to be ruby. In all likelihood, a great deal of regal jewelry thought to be ruby in the western medieval world is, in fact, spinel.
The Black Prince Ruby
This magnificent spinel, nearly two inches across, has belonged to English Royalty since 1367. It is one of the most treasured gems in the world. It is mounted above the 317.4 Cullinan Two, the second largest diamond in the world. It is irregularly shaped, pierced in one end, and the hole is filled with a ruby. It is estimated to weigh between 167-170 carats.
The history of this gem is in dispute. According to one story, The Black Prince, son of king Edward the Third, received the stone from Don Pedro, King of Castile. It was added to the Crown Jewels in 1377, for the coronation of Richard the Second. The second story is that in 1360, King Peter went to war with Granada to obtain this gem. King Peter was fighting against his brother, King Henry. King Peter requested the help of The Black Prince (Edward, Prince of Wales) to assist in the war. The Black Prince defeated King Henry in 1367, and Peter gave the gem to The Black Prince in gratitude for the victory. The spinel made its way as a crown jewel for the coronation of William and Mary of Orange, with the title, "The King's Great Ruby".
In 1415, King Henry the Fifth led his small British army against the French at Agincourt. For protection, he wore the famous Black Prince Ruby in his helmet. After winning the battle, he credited the stone for taking a blow meant for his head. Subsequently, it was set and reset in various crowns worn by the Tudors and Stuarts. In 1649, after the beheading of Charles the First, the great stone was sold for a mere 4 pounds and 11 shillings. The gem reappeared at the Restoration in the Crown Jewels of James the Second. Today, you can see the gem in the British crown jewels in the Tower of London.
The Timur Ruby
The Timur Ruby is the second largest spinel in the world, weighing 352.50 carats. Its name means, "Tribute to the World". It is not faceted, but retains its original baroque form, and is engraved. The Timur Ruby now resides in the private collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
In 1739, the Shah of Persia invaded India to seize what was thought to be the largest ruby in the world. The East India Company took possession of the gem in 1849, and sent the gem to England. The stone sat unrecognized for 60 years with three other spinels. It was officially cataloged as, "Short necklace of four very large spinel rubies".
Finally, in the 1900s, someone translated the engraved inscription. The longest Persian inscription reads, "This is the ruby from the twenty five thousand jewels of the King of Kings the Sultan Qiran in the year 1740 from the collection of jewels of Hindustan reached this place Isfahan". The remaining five inscriptions are the names of emperors who had it in their possession, the first being Akbar Shah Jahangir in 1612. Further, the inscription says the stone fell into the hands of Timur, the Tartar conqueror, when he captured Delhi in 1398.
Spinel occurs in a myriad of colors. It can be discovered in gem red, mauve, blue, hot pink, flame orange, brown, lilac, purple, violet, greenish, wine red, steel gray, slate, indigo, rose brown, and black. Occasionally, there occurs an alexandrite-like spinel, which changes from gray-blue to amethyst . Also, star spinels occur but they are exceedingly rare.
Spinel is a magnesium aluminate, its pigments are chrome and iron. Its hardness is 8, and it forms as a cubic crystal, like a diamond. Spinel occurs in octahedral crystals, and has a complete absence of cleavage. Due to the gems dispersion (0.021) gem spinels can possess vivid fire, and the intensity of these colors is partially due to the fact spinel is singly refractive. Characteristically, the inclusions in spinel are minute spinel crystals.
Spinel is usually formed as a contract metamorphic mineral in limestone. It is discovered as rolled pebbles in sand and gravel pits. It is formed because of its resistant physical and chemical properties. Spinel today is mined primarily in Burma and Sri Lanka, usually along side corundum (ruby and sapphire). A ten carat sized spinel is practically nonexistent.
As mentioned earlier, all red stones were assumed to be ruby. In 1783, minerologist Rome de Lisle was the first scientist to distinguish clearly the differences between true ruby and true spinel.
In 1915, synthetic spinel hit the world gemstone market. These stones are inexpensive to produce. This is the reason inexpensive "birthstone" or "class" rings contain synthetic spinel. Please note, the color and intensity of fine Burma spinel is in no way comparable to the lesser qualities of synthetic spinel, and the differences are easy detectable.
How to Collect Gem Spinel
Ruby, to the eye, looks very much like spinel, but not all spinel looks like ruby. Only the gem reds, hot pinks, and flame oranges deserve this honor. As a matter of fact, many collectors believe these spinels are actually MORE beautiful than ruby. Spinel is a gem coveted by inside connoisseurs and certain gem dealers themselves. Burma spinel is relatively inexpensive compared to some gems that are less attractive and more abundant. The only reason is the lack of market exposure. Most people are unaware of the existence of spinel, much less its intrinsic value. If you are a serious collector, you should own at least one of every color. If you consider yourself a speculator, spinel is an underpriced gem with serious upside potential. If you do not have the resources to invest $25,000 for a Burma ruby, this is an excellent alternative.
As mentioned previously, gem reds, hot pinks, and flame oranges are the most sought after colors by collectors. Any spinel over two carats is rare. The most desirable spinel is red/red or red/orange. When searching for pinks, search out electric or neon colors. Regarding oranges, look for an intense orange without a noticeable brown. Occasionally, NGC can locate a highly desirable amethyst or blue spinel. The colors should be vivid.
Avoid Sri Lanka stones; they are pastel in color or red-black. Avoid garnet-like spinel-red stones with dark tones and obvious brown secondaries. Typically, Sri Lankan stones are pale in color and very inexpensive.
|Burma||Ultra Rare||Moguk-Ultra Rare|
|Mong Hsu-Some Supply|
|Brilliance||More Fire||Less Fire|
|Rarity||200+ Times More Rare||More Common|
|Price||25% The Price Of Ruby||More Expensive|
The problems in obtaining fine Burma spinel today are: 1) most of the miners who were working Mogok have now left and now working the new Mong Hsu mine. So far, no spinel or blue sapphire has been found at this new deposit. 2) There is a major collector who has been purchasing gem red and pink spinels for years. Other fine spinel sits in strong handed collector and dealer portfolios.
Despite the lack of material, NGC can locate these gems. If you have an interest, let us know. If inflation heats up, watch this stone. Based upon the desirability and rarity of this stone, the sky truly is the limit.
The problem DeBeers faces is the Russians have learned how to circumvent DeBeers and make 30% more for their merchandise. The only way DeBeers can fight Russia is to go to war with Russia and flood the market with diamonds. DeBeers may be able to do this for six months. After six months, the DeBeers mines and stockpile will be severely depleted, and Russia will have all the diamonds. The Russians claim they can hold out for six months or more. Today, the Russians claim they have 25% of the world market and 50% of high-quality diamond market. If these two giants do not end up fighting each other, the outcome may be simply that there will be two major players in the diamond business. They both have the same goal; to reap as much profit from their diamonds as possible. If they get in a war, they both will lose.
However, NGC's position remains; if you want to buy a diamond for love or marriage, then go ahead and buy it. If you are a collector of large diamonds or D-Flawlesses, keep on buying at these historically low prices. If you view buying diamonds as fun or a forced savings plan, keep on purchasing these stones. However, if you view your portfolio as an investment-stick with colored diamonds. Colored diamonds are naturally rare, and international diamond power politics will not effect their prices. Never forget, at any one time, there are only 4000 carats of colored diamonds for sale vs. millions of carats of white diamonds.
Fancy Diamond Price Index
The multiplier is the D-Internally Flawless (D-IF) diamond price. Presently a one carat D-IF sells for $13,500 to $15,000. Therefore a carat size Fancy Pink may sell for between $121,500 and $135,000 per carat. Colored diamonds will sell for a premium or a discount to the multiplier. For sub carat diamonds, use the sub carat D-IF wholesale price, not the carat sized price. Please note, this index is an indication only, and some gems may trade substantially higher than these multipliers.
|Black||.06 - .09||Available|
|Fancy Brown||.10 - .50||Fairly Common|
|Fancy Light Yellow||.09 - .25||Fairly Common|
|Fancy Yellow||.18 - .50||Fairly Common|
|Fancy Intense Yellow||.75 - 1.6||Limited|
|Fancy Light Orange||.16 - .35||Limited|
|Fancy Orange||.32 - .70||Limited|
|Fancy Intense Orange||.65 - 1.4||Very Limited|
|Fancy Blue||4.5 - 7.5||Very Rare|
|Fancy Green||9.0||Not Available|
|Light Pink||1.5 - 2.5||Limited|
|Fancy Light Pink||3.0 - 5.0||Rare|
|Fancy Pink||9.0||Very Rare|
|Fancy Purple-Pink||4.5 - 9.0||Very Rare|
Chain Saw Massacre
President Sampler agreed to investigate the killings in Trujillo, Colombia. This small town is 161 miles west of Bogota. At least 107 people were killed between 1988 and 1991. Sampler said justice need to be pursued, including prosecution, reparations and compensation to the victims, and public apologies and punishment of the perpetuators. The Colombian government admitted that police, judges, and soldiers allowed right-wing paramilitary groups to commit the murders and soldiers may have participated. The victims were men, women, and children who supported left-wing guerrilla groups. First word of the massacre came to Bogota in April, 1990, when Daniel Arcila traveled to the capital with stories of torture and chain saw killings. He was sent to a psychiatrist by authorities and declared a paranoid psychopath. A new government report slams the Colombian judicial system, and recommends the psychiatrist and the judge be investigated. According to Arcila, "Major Uruena took a 2-inch hose, and put it to a 55 year old lady, who began to shout: Don't you have children? For holy God's sake, what are you going to do to me? The major repeated the same torture with everyone. Then he told one of the paramilitaries to get a chain saw. Then he cut off their heads.....and later cut everyone into pieces." Last week, Sampler fired Uruena, who had been promoted to colonel.
Stock Market Boom
While Mexico and other Latin America countries are experiencing crashing currencies and dollar outflows, the Colombian stock market is booming and the government is trying to keep its dollars inflows to a manageable level. Unlike other South American countries, Colombia has never depended on fickle foreign money to finance its growth. Colombia has always reaped substantial dollar income from coffee and emeralds. More recently, dollars arrive in Colombia from international cocaine sales. Now Colombia is enjoying the fruits of one the biggest oil discoveries since the discovery of oil in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay. Colombia also has an lengthy record of economic growth since the 1950s. Unlike most Latin America countries, Colombia resisted the temptation to nationalize every business in sight during the 1960s and 1970s. Even during the 1980s debt crisis, Colombia never defaulted on any debt, and has averaged an annual growth rate of 4%. The Colombian stock market is up over 20% since the Mexican peso crisis.
However, everything is not perfect. Violence among drug dealers, gem dealers, and leftist guerrillas keeps many foreign investors away. Plus, Colombia's inflation rate seems stuck at 20%.
The Cali Cartel
The Cali Cartel sent $40 million to Mexico in 1994. This money could have been used "for investments or to guarantee a favorable position in the new government", says Peter Lupsha, researcher at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, in an interview with Proceso, Mexico's top news weekly magazine. This information was confirmed to him by Sandy Gonzalez, a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent stationed in Panama. Lupsha says one of the major foreign contributors to the PRI's presidential campaign was the Cali Cartel. In the spring and summer of 1994, Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela sent $40 million in two shipments (Proceso #965, 1 May 1995).
On May 8,1995, Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, in a statement broadcast on TV-Hoy, offered to surrender to the Colombian government if the government leaves their families alone, guarantees them impartial trials, and refrains from negative publicity. Attorney General Alfonso Valdivieso said their surrender must be unconditional. The Cali Cartel controls 80% of the world's cocaine. In recent months the government has stepped up raids on safe houses and has confiscated communication gear used by the traffickers. The increased pressure has come after the US charges that Colombia was lax in fighting the cartel.
Go to Part Two
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