The spinel

Spinel is a fine stone used in jewelry. It takes its name from the Latin word " spina " meaning thorn, in reference to its sharp-edged crystals.

It is a masculine name. In fact, although one might want to say the Spinelle, one should say the Spinelle.


Like topaz or the beryl family of stones, this amazing stone hasa hardness of 8 on the Mohs scale (10 being the maximum hardness corresponding to diamond), which places it just below sapphire and makes it a very interesting stone to set in jewelry on pieces that are heckled on a daily basis, such as engagement rings for example.

Spinel is a mineral species, belonging to the oxide family. It is an oxide of aluminum and magnesium forming mostly octahedrons. Its different colors are attributed to traces of chromium, iron and vanadium. When it contains iron in association with titanium, it is colored blue, even black. When it contains chromium, its color varies from pink-violet to deep red. 

These spinel gems can be found in limestone or magmatic rock.


Red spinel has long been confused with ruby, which has led to a large number of synonyms. The ancients mistakenly considered red spinel as a variety of ruby called "sweeping ruby". Ruby and spinel are found in the same deposits (marble or gravel), in Tajikistan, Myanmar or Sri Lanka. These two gems are close but distinct.

Spinel, a term originally coined as an epithet for the word "ruby", is indeed composed of multiple small crystals. It is similar to tourmaline. It was in the 19th century that spinel was officially differentiated from the blood-red gemstone (ruby), both by its structures and by its slightly shallower hue.



Marguerite de Foix (died in 1486), princess of Navarre and duchess of Brittany by her marriage, owned the spinel Côte-de-Bretagne which, bequeathed to her daughter Anne de Bretagne, entered the royal treasure of François I. The spinel was cut into the shape of a dragon to form the insignia of the Golden Fleece of Louis XV. It is one of the Crown Jewels kept in the Louvre Museum.

Allusions to this stone can be found since the 16th century in literature. It is sometimes referred to by other names, such as the Balas stone. Extracted since antiquity from the mines of Badakhshan, a province in northern Afghanistan, it is described in the diary of the famous explorer Marco Polo. The purple stones belonged then only to the king of the country and nobody else had the right to possess them. He presented them to kings of other countries and to various important people. Spinels were synonymous with success and were a real asset for the region. This is why today, the majority of these minerals present in museums and royal collections around the world must most certainly come from Afghanistan.


The stones selected by traditional jewelers to set their jewelry are chosen for their great purity, without any inclusion. However, it is not uncommon to see some pretty crystals that have been trapped inside the stone. They give the stone a "sparkling" appearance, as if it were filled with little crystallized wings, resembling ice or frost crystals, much like sapphire. Spinel also offers a wide variety of color possibilities, and like tourmaline, it excels in so-called "falling" tones, which we particularly like at Legion.

At Legion, we choose the most "alive" spinels because we love the rarities, the things you won't see anywhere else. A long selection process is carried out each season with the aim of creating fanciful pieces that stand out from the overly conventional tradition of classic jewelry houses. This is why we select geometric shapes, asymmetrical shapes or unconventional sizes. We appreciate the drooping palette of grays ranging from gray-mauve to bluish-gray to faded pink. Each spinel is carefully selected to offer uncompromising originality and uniqueness in each of our creations. No two stones are alike in the ones we choose.