High Quality, Blue Spinel rough is running low in Sri Lanka due to increased demand for one of the rarest blue gems on earth. Supplies of the quality rough gem cutters need to supply the jewelry trade is almost exhausted due to recent surges in demand for the once untreatable gem. A gem that is so rare it makes diamond seem common appears to be rarer than people thought.
The new demand for this rare gem has caused the prices to push the 2500.00 a carat range for premium and larger blue spinel gems. It has historically been mistaken for sapphire just as red spinel is frequently mistaken for ruby even ending up in Royal Collections and Museums mislabeled as sapphire and ruby in the past. Now modern techniques can be used to determine if a gem is spinel or sapphire/ruby.
Spinel is literally found right alongside rubies and sapphires making it even more difficult to separate except by trained eyes. A couple of years ago blue spinel demand rose as people began to find out that almost all rubies and sapphires are treated and heated to enhance their color and clarity. Spinels however, had no available treatment since heat did not help the gem and it was considered to always be an untreated gem.
Now, the Sri Lankan’s have almost exhausted the high quality rough they need to cut new blue spinel, which was primarily mined out years ago. They had done cheaper mine cuts on the rare spinel reserving their better cutters for sapphires they found in the same mines/areas prior to the value going up over 400% . Now, the blue spinels with top color and clarity but inferior “mine cuts,” has had to almost all be recut, causing a further reduction in the gem size which also drives the price of blue spinel up. Any blue spinel over 5 carats is considered to be very large.
The M’Gok (Burma,) mines, Tanzanian and Sri Lankan mines are not producing any substantial quantity of high quality blue spinels and the Vietnamese material now sells for as much as 2500.00+ for a quarter carat and is also getting tapped out and considered, to be quite rare.
A few savvy buyers like Ezekiel (Zeke) Loftin XII at Chateau Peridot in Lynchburg, Virginia stocked up on the gorgeous blue gem and now it is a seller’s market. To further complicate the pricing the Sri Lankan’s who are masters of sapphire manipulation have finally found a way to infuse cobalt (cobalt is the element that makes the spinel, turn blue,) into lesser quality blue spinel, so now there is the first available treatment for Blue Spinel called cobalt infusion. The best way to avoid cobalt infused gems (which tend to appear muddier in color and often too dark to hide defects) is to know you are dealing with a buyer who purchased older material, like Chateau Peridot and who deals with the gem regularly. Also only deal with dealers who are happy to send gems for certification from GIA if requested. The report will cost you more but the value of the gem rises more than enough to cover the extra expense.
GIA is a trusted lab. whom can easily detect cobalt infused blue spinel which have much less value compared to non treated spinel. Like sapphires the best material when gone will be replaced with treated and fake gems so the time to buy blue spinel is now before the best gems are gone forever and the only thing left is infused gems. This is what happened with Burmese and Kashmir sapphires which can go for millions of dollars a carat now. The Sri Lankans found a way to “burn,” in Kashmir and Burma type color which is their term for heating inferior sapphires to make them look like the very expensive untreated gems. Heating (burning) will deepen the color of poor colored sapphire to mimic Burmese and Kashmir sapphire which are nonexistent in top color unless you are very wealthy. Even heat treated Burmese and Kashmir sapphires have high prices. Heat treating though not effective for spinel clarity will melt the interior of sapphire and improve the clarity of gems with cracks and inclusions.
If history repeats itself the people who buy non-treated blue spinel now will have some very valuable gems in the future. Beware of synthetic blue spinel and even glass which as with sapphires and diamonds are used to rip people off. And now beware of cobalt infusion.