The Timur Ruby
The spinel’s chameleon-like nature has often lead it to be mistaken for other, more famous stones. The spinel known as the Timur Ruby is no exception. Its 361 carats possess a purplish red hue, with its surface polished and carved, though unfaceted. Though its place of origin and date it was mined is unknown, the names of six early owners are carved upon the jewel, including its namesake Timur.
The spinel served as a crown jewel for the central Asian Timuird dynasty before becoming a piece of the Indian Mughal dynasty’s glory. It stayed in India for centuries before Great Britain claimed the subcontinent for its own in 1849. The East India Company formally presented the Timur Ruby to Queen Victoria in 1851. Two years after acquiring the stone, it was set into a gold and diamond necklace with other spinels. The jewel remains a part of the British Crown Jewels.
The Samarian Spinel
Measuring in at 500 carats, the Samarian Spinel is the largest gem quality spinel in the world. The stone is unfaceted, yet polished to a glossy sheen. It has a reddish brown hue, with a 400 year old inscription of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s ownership carved upon it. The jewel has a hole through it, possibly to accommodate a necklace string.
In 1739 the Persian armies of Nader Shah invaded the Mughal’s capitol, Delhi. The occupation included opening and emptying the royal treasury of coin and jewels, including the Samarian Spinel. After two centuries in the domain of Persian royalty, the spinel and other imperial gemstones were transferred into state custody to strengthen the Iranian National Bank. Since the 1990s, the Samarian Spinel has been on public display.
Russian imperial crown Spinel
At the apex of the Russian imperial crown sits a jewel whose 398.72 carats make it the second largest spinel in the world. The stone is cut into a pear shape, mounted with its pointed end facing down, and its dark red hue is highlighted with a halo of diamonds. Not much is written about the spinel’s early history, but we know that it came to Russia via the diplomat Nicholas Milescu, sometime before 1708.
In 1762, Empress Catherine the Great commissioned a new crown to be created for use in her coronation. The court jewelers Ekart and Jeremia Pauzie created a nine pound masterpiece adorned with 4,936 diamonds and other gemstones. The imperial crown and its spinel remain in Russia to this day, available for public viewing in Moscow.
The Black Prince’s Ruby
The oldest piece of the United Kingdom crown jewels, the Black Prince’s Ruby can be traced back to 1367, when it was gifted to the Black Prince Edward of Woodstock, the son of King Edward III. Despite what the name indicates, the stone is actually a spinel, though this detail wasn’t discovered for centuries. At 170 carats, the Black Prince’s Ruby is the size of a chicken egg and remains uncut, though polished, after centuries in human hands.
The spinel is first recorded in the mid-14th century as a jewel of Prince Abu Sa’id of Grenada. The jewel was stolen in a conflict with Peter of Castile, who later gave the stone to the Black Prince to pay for services rendered. The stone was mounted in crowns and battle helmets, and lost for a time during the Commonwealth of England period. It was sold back to the British royal family and used as part of Queen Victoria’s coronation regalia. It’s currently mounted into the Imperial State Crown.