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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Spinel Bracelet

Photograph of a spinel bracelet (NMNH G8832) from the National Gem Collection
Photo by Chip Clark. Click to zoom.
Catalog Number NMNH G8832-00
Locality Myanmar [Burma]

Obtained in an exchange in 1981.

This bracelet has 98 natural spinel crystals set in a double row in yellow gold. The high luster and perfect octahedral spinel crystals, found in the Mogok region of Burma, are called “Anyon nat thwe” by the Burmese, meaning spinels that have been cut and polished by the spirits. Historically, there has been much confusion between spinel and ruby. It was not until 1783 that spinel was recognized as a mineral distinct from corundum (ruby and sapphire). Ruby is aluminum oxide, while spinel is magnesium aluminum oxide. They both get their reddish color from impurities of chromium. Red and pink spinels are the most popular in jewelry, but in general the gem-buying public is unfamiliar with spinels. Undoubtedly the historical confusion with ruby has led to its reputation as that gemstone’s poor relation. Spinel is also confused with synthetic spinel, sometimes used as a simulant for other gems, commonly seen in less expensive jewelry and widely used in high school and college rings.


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