Ruby vs Spinel: Comparing the Gemstones

26 June 2024

Rubies and spinels can often be confused with one another as they tend to occur in similar vivid red hues. Natural rubies occur in a wide range of colours – from a purple-red through to orange-red, however the red spinel has no secondary hues. Either way, the beautiful deep red we tend to see in luxury pieces of jewellery is the most desired. Both of these coloured stones have an interesting history.


The earliest red spinels were found in Buddhist tombs in Kabul Afghanistan, and date back to approximately 100 B.C. The mining of spinel began in Afghanistan between 750 and 950 A.D. and was documented by Marco Polo.

The ancient Romans frequently used red spinels as early as the first century B.C. The Romans brought examples of blue and green spinel into England, during their occupation, which dates to 51 B.C.

Ruby vs Spinel: Comparing the Gemstone


Red spinels have been a favourite stone throughout history, used frequently in the Renaissance and became quite fashionable in the 18th Century. Some of the largest spinels are found in royal collections. The Great Imperial Crown commissioned for the coronation of Catherine the Great in Moscow has a 412.25 carat dark red spinel as its centrepiece. The largest collection of spinels, which includes a 500 carat gem, is part of the collection of the Royal Crown Jewels of Iran.

Interestingly, The Black Prince's Ruby, a large red gem that is set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, is not a ruby but in fact, a spinel. It is one of the world's largest gem-quality red spinels weighing 170 carats.

Ruby vs Spinel: Comparing the Gemstones


When it comes to rubies, Burmese rubies are the standard by which the world's production is judged. The ruby mines in Mogok were taken over from the Shan Dynasty by the King of Burma in 1597. He decreed that any rubies over a certain size and weight must be given to him. It is said that some larger stones were broken up and sold rather than turned over to the King, which is why it is believed that large rubies are so rare in modern times.

Ruby vs Spinel: Comparing the Gemstones

Which is more valuable, ruby or spinel?

The main difference between these two magnificent red stones is the colour. They represent a similar level of hardness on the Mohs scale. Spinel is more abundant and have been available at a more achievable price however, their increasing popularity in recent years, has driven prices up. Even with the price rise, spinels are a more affordable option than rubies, which are one of the rarest gemstones in the world and high-quality rubies continue to increase significantly in value.

An example of ruby ($165,000) and spinel earrings ($79,000). Which do you prefer?
Ruby vs Spinel: Comparing the Gemstone

Learn more about diamonds and coloured gemstones on our Care & Education page here.