The name spinel comes from the Greek word for spark. The name has also been said to come from the Latin word spina for spine or thorn, because spinel is often found as very sharp crystals. Since medieval times, spinel has also been known as the balas ruby, after Balascia (today Badakhshan), a region of northeast Afghanistan that for many years was a source of fine specimens of spinel. Spinel comes in many different colors however red and blue are the most famous because for centuries they have been mistaken for ruby and sapphire.
The most ancient, historic case of this mistake is called the Timur Ruby. In 1398, Tamerlane (Timur the Lame) went to India. While in Delhi, he seized a large amount of jewels, among them a big ruby of more than 350 carats. Centuries passed, fortunes changed hands, and at one point, this great ruby came into the possession of Emperor Shah Jahan of India, who built the Taj Mahal. Jahan also owned the famed Peacock Throne, with its 12 pillars, each decorated with two peacocks made from pearls, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, and the enormous Timur Ruby. In 1851, Queen Elizabeth received a present from the East India Company. It turned out to be the infamous Timur Ruby. The stone was set into a necklace along with other gems, and became part of the crown jewels. Years later it was identified as one of the largest red spinels ever known. Spinel was actually only recognized as a mineral , not a ruby, a little over 150 years ago. The Black Prince’s ruby is actually spinel as well, and is found in the center of the British imperial State crown. This was a gift from Pedro the Cruel, the king of Spain, to the Black Prince, who is the son of Edward III of England, in 1367. The gift was given as thanks for his help in battle.
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