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19thC Antique 1ct+ Spinel Medieval “Balas Ruby” Badakhshan Tajikistan Marco Polo #45720

Cost: $ 159.99


Antique Genuine Natural Russian One Carat (Plus) Faceted, Handcrafted Bright Purple-Pink Semi-Precious Spinel Gemstone Square. Contemporary High Quality Sterling Silver Ring (Size 7 – Resizing Available).

CLASSIFICATION: Faceted Purple-Pink Spinel Square.

ORIGIN: Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia. 19th Century.

SIZE: Length: 6mm. Width: 6mm. Depth: 3mm. All measurements approximate.

WEIGHT: 1.11 carats.

NOTE:  Resizing is available.  14kt solid gold setting is also available. If you would prefer a different setting style, odds are we have many different setting styles available which would fit this stone(s) which could be substituted for no or very little additional cost.  Write us for pictures and prices. 

NOTE:  If you would like only the gemstone, and not the setting, we can dismount the gemstone and offer you the gemstone without the setting.  Just let us know, and yes, we’ll discount the price by the cost of the setting.

DETAIL:
In the ancient world red spinel was also known as a “Balas Ruby”, and was mined in Northwest Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and traded throughout China and Europe. Although history does not document the mining of spinel in Afghanistan until about 750 A.D., it is likely the source for the spinel of the Romans and the rest of the classical Mediterranean. Marco Polo mentioned the famous “Badakhshan” mine which produced this gemstone, describing the gemstone as “Balas Ruby”. The name for Badakhshan in the ancient world was “Balascia”, from which the name “Balas Ruby” was born. Though spinel is presently less expensive than ruby, it is many times more rare. And despite all of the confusion in Europe over what was spinel and what was ruby, in Burma where both gemstones have been mined for many centuries, spinel was recognized as a separate gem species as early as 1587 A.D.

Looking like a very brightly colored pastel hued purple-pink sapphire, one instantly knows it is not merely iolite or amethyst due to the tremendous brilliance and flash of the gemstone. Is it corundum, sapphire or ruby? It has all the fire and sparkle of a precious gemstone. Actually if you were able to examine the crown jewels of the royal families of Medieval, Renaissance, and Victorian Europe from England to Russia, you would find many fabulous examples of this gemstone. And had you been able to ask the actual owners of these gemstone, royalty all, or their royal jewelers as to the identity of this stone, they would have answered ruby or sapphire - corundum. But history would prove them wrong, as many of the greatest, most massive, and most valuable rubies and sapphires in the crown jewels of Europe's royalty were:spinel. With nearly the same hardness as corundum, and similar flash and brilliance (refractive index), it has been mistaken for rubies, sapphires, and other precious gemstones for centuries.

This gorgeous and brightly colored brilliant gemstone shares this heritage. Mined in Chelyabinsk Oblast (county), Russia, the gemstone was hand crafted and faceted by a 19th century Russian artisan, part of an heritage renown for the production of the elaborate gemstones and jewelry of the Czars of Medieval, Renaissance, and Victorian Russia. The result is an exquisitely colored and exceptionally brilliant purple colored gemstone with gorgeous and pronounced pink undertones. It truly has all the flash and brilliance of a purple or pink sapphire, or diamond. In fact though much more flashy than any but the highest quality purple or pink sapphire, it is probably going to be most often mistaken for purple or pink sapphire should you be the lucky winner of this amazing gemstone.

Spinel, like the rubies and sapphires it is so often mistaken for, is noted for being a rather "dirty" gemstone, much like emeralds and tourmaline as well. However this specimen is no worse than eye clean, and even in these 500% photo enlargements, it is difficult to discern any significant blemishes. To the naked eye it is without flaw, richly hued, and alive with sparkles. Good quality spinel is in extremely short supply, especially such clean specimens, and can be very costly. This is at the present time one of only a handful of specimens we have to offer. Even here at the source in Chelyabinsk, Russia, it is a quite uncommon and fairly scarce gemstone. 

Under magnification the gemstone shows the unmistakable characteristics of having been hand crafted. The coarseness of the handcrafted finish is considered appealing to most gemstone collectors, and is not considered a detriment, or to detract from the value of a gemstone. These characteristics are not only expected of hand-finished gemstones, most serious collectors consider such gemstones more desirable, possessed of greater character and uniqueness when compared to today's cookie-cutter mass-produced machine-faceted gemstones. Unlike today’s computer controlled machine produced gemstones that approach flawlessness in a perfect finish, the cut and finish of a handcrafted gemstone such as this is the cultural legacy passed onwards by artisans who lived centuries ago.

This gemstone has great luster and sparkle, and to the eye is completely transparent and clean to the eye, but it is not absolutely flawless. True, the blemishes it possesses are not visible to the naked eye, and the gemstone can be characterized, to use trade jargon, as "eye clean". Even to close scrutiny (with the naked eye) it is indeed without blemish. However magnified 500%, as it is here, you might be able to pick out one or two slight blemishes within the gemstone, barely perceptible even at such high magnification, and as well occasional irregularities in the faceting and finish. But these characteristics are not only expected of hand-finished gemstones, you must also consider that two centuries ago the mining techniques even theoretically possible, let alone commonly practiced, did not allow the ultra deep mining operations which are so commonplace today.

Two centuries ago mankind was more or less limited to surface deposits or near surface deposits of gemstones. Higher quality gemstones which today are routinely mined from beneath hundreds of meters, even kilometers beneath the earth's surface, were simply inaccessible then. This is why antique gemstones must be appreciated as antiques first, gemstones second. The relatively superlative quality of contemporary gemstones routinely mined from deep beneath the earth's surface today were simply not accessible two centuries ago, or at least, only rarely so. However for most, the unique nature and character of antique gemstones such as this more than makes up for minute blemishes which by and large, are (if at all) only visible under high magnification.

HISTORY OF SPINEL: The name “spinel” is probably derived from the Latin word “spinella”, itself derived from the Greek work meaning “spark”, probably in reference to the bright red or orange color of some crystals. Mariners as early as the 11th century knew spinel as “lodestone”, which literally means “way stone”. Due to the unique magnetic properties of spinel, it literally “found the way” for ancient mariners as it was used to magnetize the compasses which they used to guide their ship's course at sea. This also saw the beginning of the art of cartography, as seaman began to plot the courses of their voyages and create the earliest maps of the world. One early known use of spinel was from about 100 B.C. in a Buddhist tomb in Afghanistan. There are also references to spinel in ancient Sanskrit texts, which referred to spinel as “the daughter of ruby”. Spinel was also extensively was used in jewelry by the Romans.

Spinel comes in a wide variety of beautiful colors and is especially prized for its red, blue, pink, and purple varieties. The red variety has oftentimes been mistaken for ruby, and many of the so-called “rubies” in Europe’s crown jewels are actually spinel. The most famous is the Black Prince's “Ruby”, a magnificent 170-carat red spinel that currently adorns the Imperial State Crown in the British Crown Jewels. Long believed to be a ruby, this gem was once owned by the Arabian Emirs, who were the rulers of Granada (present-day Spain). In the 14th century, Pedro the Cruel, the king of Castile, under the pretext of negotiations, drew into ambush the Emir Abu Said and ruthlessly murdered him and took the gemstone. The gemstone was given to England’s Edward the Black Prince, heir to the British throne, in return for military service putting down an insurrection raised against Pedro the Cruel. King Henry V then wore the gemstone on his battle helmet during the battle of Azincourt in 1415 A.D. King Richard III of England, the last of the Plantagenet dynasty, wore the same helmet during the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 A.D., where he was killed.

The Timur Ruby is a 352-carat red spinel named after Tamerlain, the Tartar conqueror who came to possess the gemstone as a result of his plunder of Delhi, and ordered that his name be carved upon it. The gemstone eventually returned to India, where it was incorporated into the famous “Peacock Throne”, which was subsequently brought back to Persia in 1739 by the conqueror Nader Shah. When Nader Shah was assassinated in 1747, the Peacock Throne itself disappeared from historical records (presumably disassembled), though the magnificent spinel which was its centerpiece survived. Now owned by Queen Elizabeth, the gemstone has the names of some of the Mughal emperors who previously owned it engraved on its face. Another noteworthy faceted red spinel of more than 400 carats belonged to Empress Catherine II of Russia, and is now part of the Russian Treasure in the Kremlin. Nicholas Spafary, the Russian envoy to China, bought this gemstone for Tsar Alexis I of Russia. He purchased it from a high-ranking Chinese official and secretly took it out, as in China it was forbidden to sell “rubies” to the foreigners, as they must only belong to the Emperor.

The Samarian Spinel is the world’s largest spinel weighing 500 carats, and is part of the Iranian Crown Jewels, displayed at the Museum of the Treasury of National Iranian Jewels. According to legend the gemstone once adorned the Biblical Golden Calf, mentioned in Exodus 32. The Hebrews escaping from Egypt in the 13th century B.C. asked Aaron, the brother of Moses to fashion a golden calf, an idol that was then worshipped by the ancient Hebrews. Moses later came down from the Sinai carrying with him the tablets containing the ten commandments, and upon seeing his people worshipping the golden calf, ordered its destruction. However, the worship of the Golden Calf continued up to the 10th century B.C. till the age of Jeroboam I, King of Israel. 

In the ancient world red spinel was also known as a “Balas Ruby”, and was mined in Northwest Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and traded throughout China and Europe. Although history does not document the mining of spinel in Afghanistan until about 750 A.D., it is likely the source for the spinel of the Romans and the rest of the classical Mediterranean. Marco Polo mentioned the famous “Badakhshan” mine which produced this gemstone, describing the gemstone as “Balas Ruby”. The name for Badakhshan in the ancient world was “Balascia”, from which the name “Balas Ruby” was born. Though spinel is presently less expensive than ruby, it is many times more rare. And despite all of the confusion in Europe over what was spinel and what was ruby, in Burma where both gemstones have been mined for many centuries, spinel was recognized as a separate gem species as early as 1587 A.D.

However in Europe, confusion lasted for many centuries after that, red spinel still referred to as “Balas Ruby” or “Oriental Ruby” for several more centuries. As well, blue, pink, and purple spinel was oftentimes mistaken for sapphire. In Chelyabinsk, Russia, the origin of this gemstone, spinel has been produced continuously from a nearby deposit since 1843 A.D. Now treasured for its own sake, spinel is a favorite of gem dealers and gem collectors due to its brilliance, hardness and wide range of spectacular colors. Red and orange spinel owes its color to chromium, violet to manganese, and to iron or cobalt for the very rare blue variety of spinel. In addition to Burma and Russia, spinel has historically also been produced in Ceylon, and has recently been discovered in Tanzania (home of tanzanite).

Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness and providing protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In the ancient world spinel was associated with love, was worn as a protective talisman, and was said to help the wearer resolve contentious issues, to put their ego aside, and become devoted to another person. Spinel also was believed to encourage passion and is said to increase the duration of the wearer’s life, and was also said effective in relieving sadness.

 

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