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The stone whose price is getting higher with each day

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

The price on this mineral continues breaking historical records. Over the last decade, it has become one of the most highly demanded stones: the greatest and most famous jewellery houses from all over the world use this gem in their collections while the purchase of this stone is reasonably considered a profitable investment. In Russia, this stone was used to decorate the main symbol of power of monarchy - the crown. The mineral’s name is spinel.

The red variety of this stone also known as spinel-ruby had been continuously mistaken for a ruby for a very long time. It was the very late 20th century when expert analysis confirmed that the crown jewels of Great Britain, Germany and France had been in fact encrusted with spinel. Once the broader audiences had become aware of that fact, people gave the stone another name - ”the history’s greatest impostor”. The initial confusion was brought by Marco Polo, adventurer and explorer. After returning to Europe from the Pamirs, he kept telling about deposits of an amazing beauty bearing red radiant crystals, which he said were ruby mines.

It has been always considered that spinel is the right stone for decorating imperial crowns. Red mineral was supposed to protect the integrity of its owner. The most well-known spinel in the history - the Black Princes’s Ruby - even saved the life of Henry V, the King of England. It was the Hundred Years’ War, and during one of the battles the attacker managed to cut the Henry V's helmet. However, the sword only stumbled onto the spinel embedded into the headgear, and the king survived the attack.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

In Russia, the mineral got its minute of glory due to the large imperial crown - the one topped with a ruby spinel, weighing almost 400 carats. Nikolai Spathari, a Russian diplomat, brought the gem from China for a very specific purpose - to please Catherine the First.

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Фото © Smallru/ru.wikipedia.org

Spinel was revered in the East as well. In ancient times, men needed the mineral to attract women or, to put it differently, back in those days it was some sort of a sexual stimulant. To increase sexual activity, a spinel powder had to be added into the food. That was a primary reason why lovers often gave this stone to each other as a present. On the contrary, it was strictly forbidden to give it to children.

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Фото © Robert Matthew Lavinsky

These days, jewels with spinel have become an important attribute of social events. The stone can make an emphasis on the status of its owner in a much better way than the other stones, such as tourmaline, andradite or sapphire. Not all the types of spinel are equally valuable though. The red, pink, blue and green ones are classified as noble varieties. The price on red spinel is pretty much close to the one on rubies and is currently nearing fifteen thousand dollars per carat while the rarest and most beautiful mineral specimens can be sold for much higher value at the auction.

The biggest issue was that spinel is a refractory stone. Putting on a varnish with special oils does not change the properties of the stone either. In some cases, the colour saturation may be intensified, but there still remains the risk of darkening. Originally, this peculiarity of the stone led to the growing popularity of spinel in the jewellery market. It should be noted though that nowadays more than 90% of the stones on sale are intentionally ’improved’. The items made of them are indeed no longer precious jewels and are nothing more than fakes.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей