The name “spinel” comes from the Latin word spina, which means thorn, in reference to the shape of spinel crystals. This second August birthstone comes in a wealth of colors: intense red, vibrant pink, orange, purple, violet, blue and bluish green.
For centuries, spinel was mistaken for other gemstones. Some of history’s most famous “rubies” have actually turned out to be this August birthstone. The approximately 170 ct Black Prince’s “ruby,” for example, was owned by a succession of Moorish and Spanish kings before Edward, Prince of Wales (also known as the Black Prince) received the stone in 1367 as payment for winning a battle on behalf of Peter of Castile. Not until the 18th century was spinel clearly separated from ruby on the basis of their chemical differences. Today, this historic red spinel is set in Great Britain’s Imperial State Crown, just above the 317.40 ct Cullinan II diamond.