Co-Consulting Director, Gemologist
Fine Gems, Opals, Lapidary Arts and Natural History / Important Red Spinel
Sold for US$630,375 inc. premium
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Accompanied by a GRS certificate numbered 2021-070501 (Awarded No. 3132) dated July 5th, 2021 stating that the 18.17 carats spinel is natural and that it has no indications of thermal treatment and that it originates from Tanzania. The red hue has been given a designation of GRS brilliancy-type "vibrant".
Accompanied by a Gemological Portrait by Dr. Peretti.
Accompanied by an AGL (American Gemological Laboratories) report.
"There is also.. an other kynde of Rubies which wee caule Spinelle"
Richard Eden, the 16th century alchemist, in 1555
Until 1783, red and pink spinels were mistaken for rubies because they are chemically similar. Even after fine pink gems were known to be spinels they were still referred to as "balas" or "balais" rubies. The term "balas" derives from an ancient word for Badakhshan, a province north of Afghanistan on the border with Tajikistan, where important spinel specimens were anciently mined. These Kuh-i-Lal ('red mountain') mines were the world's main source of large spinels from the 1st century AD. Marco Polo (c.1254–1324) described how "fine and valuable balas rubies" were dug only for the King, who owned the entire supply, which he sent to other kings as tributes or as "friendly presents".
Mughal emperors and their ancestors, the Timurids, valued large Kuh-i-Lal spinels for their beauty and as protective talismans. The gems were polished rather than cut and were often inscribed with the names of rulers and monarchs as a way of commemoration. The Carew Spinel, in the collection of the V&A in London, is inscribed with the names of Emperors Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. Spectacular Mughal spinels which entered Persian, Russian and European royal treasuries include the "Black Prince's Ruby": a large uncut red spinel, it was given to the Black Prince by Pedro the Cruel in 1367, worn by Henry V in his helmet at the Battle of Agincourt and is now set in the Imperial State Crown in the British crown jewels. The 361-carat "Timur Ruby", also in the British crown jewels, was owned by Sultan Sahib Qiran and Ranjit Singh, the "Lion of the Punjab". A huge polished spinel decorates the Imperial Crown of Russia, made for the coronation of Catherine the Great in 1762.
In the 19th century, spinels were cut according to European ideals to best exploit their fine pink colour and transparency. For other spinels of similar cut mounted in 19th century jewellery, see The Hope Spinel, sold at Bonhams in September 2015, the "ruby" jewels of Queen Therese in the Munich Treasury, the "Bagration" jewels, now in the collection of the Duke of Westminster.
This lot is also accompanied by an American Gemological Laboratories report number 1122701 dated April 18, 2022 stating that the red spinel is natural, that it is Classic Tanzania, and that it shows no gemological evidence of heat treatment.