It is remarkable how many dealers in the rare gem trade I have met who declare spinel to be at least among their favorite gems, if not their favorite. The question of "favorite gem" seems as though it should be divisive, but the truth is that fine spinel tends to be a great unifier among rare gem enthusiasts.
To my mind, the one truly odd thing about spinel is how long it has taken for the public to develop an awareness of this exquisite natural gemstone. Historically, quite a number of famous rubies were actually spinel (pronounced spin-ELLE). Possibly the most famous example is the Black Prince's Ruby. Given to Edward of Woodstock (the Black Prince) in 1367, this gem is one of the oldest stones in the British Crown Jewels. Today, this incredible cabochon cut, 170ct red spinel resides in the Imperial State crown, most notably worn in modern times by Queen Elizabeth II for her coronation.
One of the exceptional qualities of fine spinel is the liveliness it can achieve. When cut properly, light is reflected beautifully within a spinel, creating a brightness that can't be missed. Another exceptional factor is the intensity of color often found in spinel, without any enhancement. Ruby reds, cobalt blues, vivid orange-toned hot pink, fabulous purples, and brilliant grays are all available in fine spinel.
Both durable and hard, spinel is an excellent stone for jewelry. It's a gem which has inspired me as a designer for many years. One of the very first fine gems I ever purchased was an exceptional Mahenge spinel. I also selected a fine spinel as one of the gems for my own wedding ring.
I always advise clients to seek out spinels which "pop" dramatically: the intensity of color and brightness of the gemstone should both be first among your impressions of the gem. Exceptional gems are available from very small to medium sizes, whereas large-sized fine spinels are going to be rare.
Recently, spinel was added as an official birthstone option for those born in the month of August. For those born in August who just can't get on board with vivid apple-green peridot, spinel offers quite the range of alternatives!