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Spinel on top of a pargasite, and both perched and centered atop a marble matrix
(repeating unit)
Strunz classification 4.BB.05
Crystal system Cubic
Crystal class Hexoctahedral (m3m)
H-M symbol: (4/m 3 2/m)
Space group Fd3m (No. 227)
Unit cell a = 8.0898(9) Å; Z = 8
ColorVarious; red, pink, blue, lavender/violet, dark green, brown, black, colourless
Crystal habit Octehedra or flat triangular plates caused by twinning
Twinning common
Cleavage None
Fracture Conchoidal
Mohs scale hardness7.5–8.0
Luster Vitreous
Streak White
Diaphaneity Transparent to Opaque
Specific gravity (depending on the composition) the rare, Zn-rich spinel can be as high as 4.40, otherwise it averages from 3.58-3.61
Optical propertiesIsotropic
Refractive index 1.719
Pleochroism Absent
Solubility none
Other characteristicsWeak to medium magnetic, sometimes fluorescent (red synthetic yes, natural red sometimes)
References [1] [2]

Spinel ( /spɪˈnɛl/ ) is the magnesium aluminium member of the larger spinel group of minerals. It has the formula MgAl2O4 in the cubic crystal system. Its name comes from Latin "spina" (arrow). [1]

The spinels are any of a class of minerals of general formulation AB
which crystallise in the cubic (isometric) crystal system, with the X anions arranged in a cubic close-packed lattice and the cations A and B occupying some or all of the octahedral and tetrahedral sites in the lattice. Although the charges of A and B in the prototypical spinel structure are +2 and +3, respectively, other combinations incorporating divalent, trivalent, or tetravalent cations, including magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese, aluminium, chromium, titanium, and silicon, are also possible. The anion is normally oxygen; when other chalcogenides constitute the anion sublattice the structure is referred to as a thiospinel.

Cubic crystal system lattice point group

In crystallography, the cubiccrystal system is a crystal system where the unit cell is in the shape of a cube. This is one of the most common and simplest shapes found in crystals and minerals.


Though spinels are often referred to as rubies, as in the Black Prince Ruby, the ruby is not a spinel. Balas ruby is an old name for a rose-tinted variety of spinel.

Ruby variety of corundum, mineral, gemstone

A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum. Other varieties of gem-quality corundum are called sapphires. Ruby is one of the traditional cardinal gems, together with amethyst, sapphire, emerald, and diamond. The word ruby comes from ruber, Latin for red. The color of a ruby is due to the element chromium.


Cut spinel Spinelgem.JPG
Cut spinel

Spinel crystallizes in the isometric system; common crystal forms are octahedra, usually twinned. It has an imperfect octahedral cleavage and a conchoidal fracture. Its hardness is 8, its specific gravity is 3.5–4.1, and it is transparent to opaque with a vitreous to dull luster. It may be colorless, but is usually various shades of pink, rose, red, blue, green, yellow, brown, black, or (uncommon) violet. There is a unique natural white spinel, now lost, that surfaced briefly in what is now Sri Lanka. Some spinels are among the most famous gemstones; among them are the Black Prince's Ruby and the "Timur ruby" in the British Crown Jewels, and the "Côte de Bretagne", formerly from the French Crown jewels. The Samarian Spinel is the largest known spinel in the world, weighing 500 carats (100 g).

Octahedron Polyhedron with 8 faces

In geometry, an octahedron is a polyhedron with eight faces, twelve edges, and six vertices. The term is most commonly used to refer to the regular octahedron, a Platonic solid composed of eight equilateral triangles, four of which meet at each vertex.

Crystal twinning when two separate crystals share some of the same crystal lattice points in a symmetrical manner

Crystal twinning occurs when two separate crystals share some of the same crystal lattice points in a symmetrical manner. The result is an intergrowth of two separate crystals in a variety of specific configurations. The surface along which the lattice points are shared in twinned crystals is called a composition surface or twin plane.

Cleavage (crystal) tendency of crystalline materials to split along definite crystallographic structural planes

Cleavage, in mineralogy, is the tendency of crystalline materials to split along definite crystallographic structural planes. These planes of relative weakness are a result of the regular locations of atoms and ions in the crystal, which create smooth repeating surfaces that are visible both in the microscope and to the naked eye.

The transparent red spinels were called spinel-rubies or balas rubies. In the past, before the arrival of modern science, spinels and rubies were equally known as rubies. After the 18th century the word ruby was only used for the red gem variety of the mineral corundum and the word spinel came to be used. "Balas" is derived from Balascia, the ancient name for Badakhshan, a region in central Asia situated in the upper valley of the Panj River, one of the principal tributaries of the Oxus River. Mines in the Gorno Badakhshan region of Tajikistan constituted for centuries the main source for red and pink spinels.

Corundum oxide mineral

Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide typically containing traces of iron, titanium, vanadium and chromium. It is a rock-forming mineral. It is also a naturally transparent material, but can have different colors depending on the presence of transition metal impurities in its crystalline structure. Corundum has two primary gem varieties: ruby and sapphire. Rubies are red due to the presence of chromium, and sapphires exhibit a range of colors depending on what transition metal is present. A rare type of sapphire, padparadscha sapphire, is pink-orange.

Badakhshan historic region comprising parts of what is now northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan

Badakhshan is a historic region comprising parts of what is now northeastern Afghanistan, eastern Tajikistan, and the Tashkurgan county in China. The name is retained in Badakhshan Province, which is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan and is located in North-East Afghanistan. Much of historic Badakhshan lies within Tajikistan's Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region located in the south-eastern part of the country. The music of Badakhshan is an important part of the region's cultural heritage.

Asia Earths largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres

Asia is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern and Northern Hemispheres. It shares the continental landmass of Eurasia with the continent of Europe and the continental landmass of Afro-Eurasia with both Europe and Africa. Asia covers an area of 44,579,000 square kilometres (17,212,000 sq mi), about 30% of Earth's total land area and 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area. The continent, which has long been home to the majority of the human population, was the site of many of the first civilizations. Asia is notable for not only its overall large size and population, but also dense and large settlements, as well as vast barely populated regions. Its 4.5 billion people constitute roughly 60% of the world's population.


Spinel has long been found in the gemstone-bearing gravel of Sri Lanka and in limestones of the Badakshan Province in modern-day Afghanistan and Tajikistan; and of Mogok in Burma. Recently gem quality spinels also found in the marbles of Luc Yen (Vietnam), Mahenge and Matombo (Tanzania), Tsavo (Kenya) and in the gravels of Tunduru (Tanzania) and Ilakaka (Madagascar). Spinel is found as a metamorphic mineral, and also as a primary mineral in rare mafic igneous rocks; in these igneous rocks, the magmas are relatively deficient in alkalis relative to aluminium, and aluminium oxide may form as the mineral corundum or may combine with magnesia to form spinel. This is why spinel and ruby are often found together. The spinel petrogenesis in mafic magmatic rocks is strongly debated, but certainly results from mafic magma interaction with more evolved magma [3] or rock (e.g. gabbro, troctolite). [4] [5]

Gemstone Piece of mineral crystal used to make jewelry

A gemstone is a piece of mineral crystal which, in cut and polished form, is used to make jewelry or other adornments. However, certain rocks and occasionally organic materials that are not minerals are also used for jewelry and are therefore often considered to be gemstones as well. Most gemstones are hard, but some soft minerals are used in jewelry because of their luster or other physical properties that have aesthetic value. Rarity is another characteristic that lends value to a gemstone.

Sri Lanka Island country in South Asia

Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in South Asia, located in the Indian Ocean to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal and to the southeast of the Arabian Sea. The island is historically and culturally intertwined with the Indian subcontinent, but is geographically separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait. The legislative capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the commercial capital and largest city, Colombo.

Limestone Sedimentary rocks made of calcium carbonate

Limestone is a carbonate sedimentary rock that is often composed of the skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, foraminifera, and molluscs. Its major materials are the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). A closely related rock is dolostone, which contains a high percentage of the mineral dolomite, CaMg(CO3)2. In fact, in old USGS publications, dolostone was referred to as magnesian limestone, a term now reserved for magnesium-deficient dolostones or magnesium-rich limestones.

Spinel, (Mg,Fe)(Al,Cr)2O4, is common in peridotite in the uppermost Earth's mantle, between approximately 20 km to approximately 120 km, possibly to lower depths depending on the chromium content. [6] At significantly shallower depths, above the Moho, calcic plagioclase is the more stable aluminous mineral in peridotite while garnet is the stable phase deeper in the mantle below the spinel stability region.

Peridotite A coarse-grained ultramafic igneous rock

Peridotite is a dense, coarse-grained igneous rock consisting mostly of the minerals olivine and pyroxene. Peridotite is ultramafic, as the rock contains less than 45% silica (SiO4−
). It is high in magnesium (Mg2+), reflecting the high proportions of magnesium-rich olivine, with appreciable iron. Peridotite is derived from the Earth's mantle, either as solid blocks and fragments, or as crystals accumulated from magmas that formed in the mantle. The compositions of peridotites from these layered igneous complexes vary widely, reflecting the relative proportions of pyroxenes, chromite, plagioclase, and amphibole.

Mohorovičić discontinuity Boundary between the Earths crust and the mantle

The Mohorovičić discontinuity, usually referred to as the Moho, is the boundary between the Earth's crust and the mantle.

Plagioclase feldspars, albite - anorthite solid solution series

Plagioclase is a series of tectosilicate (framework silicate) minerals within the feldspar group. Rather than referring to a particular mineral with a specific chemical composition, plagioclase is a continuous solid solution series, more properly known as the plagioclase feldspar series (from the Ancient Greek for "oblique fracture", in reference to its two cleavage angles). This was first shown by the German mineralogist Johann Friedrich Christian Hessel (1796–1872) in 1826. The series ranges from albite to anorthite endmembers (with respective compositions NaAlSi3O8 to CaAl2Si2O8), where sodium and calcium atoms can substitute for each other in the mineral's crystal lattice structure. Plagioclase in hand samples is often identified by its polysynthetic crystal twinning or 'record-groove' effect.

Spinel, (Mg,Fe)Al2O4, is a common mineral in the Ca-Al-rich inclusions (CAIs) in some chondritic meteorites.

Synthetic spinel

Synthetic spinel, accidentally produced in the middle of the 18th century, has been described more recently in scientific publications in 2000 and 2004. [7] By 2015, transparent spinel was being made in sheets and other shapes through sintering. [8] Synthetic spinel, which looks like glass but has notably higher strength against pressure, can also have applications in military and commercial use. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

Garnet mineral, semi-precious stone

Garnets are a group of silicate minerals that have been used since the Bronze Age as gemstones and abrasives.

Magma Mixture of molten or semi-molten rock, volatiles and solids that is found beneath the surface of the Earth

Magma is the molten or semi-molten natural material from which all igneous rocks are formed. Magma is found beneath the surface of the Earth, and evidence of magmatism has also been discovered on other terrestrial planets and some natural satellites. Besides molten rock, magma may also contain suspended crystals and gas bubbles. Magma is produced by melting of the mantle and/or the crust at various tectonic settings, including subduction zones, continental rift zones, mid-ocean ridges and hotspots. Mantle and crustal melts migrate upwards through the crust where they are thought to be stored in magma chambers or trans-crustal crystal-rich mush zones. During their storage in the crust, magma compositions may be modified by fractional crystallization, contamination with crustal melts, magma mixing, and degassing. Following their ascent through the crust, magmas may feed a volcano or solidify underground to form an intrusion. While the study of magma has historically relied on observing magma in the form of lava flows, magma has been encountered in situ three times during geothermal drilling projects—twice in Iceland, and once in Hawaii.

Kimberlite An igneous rock which sometimes contains diamonds

Kimberlite is an igneous rock, which sometimes contains diamonds. It is named after the town of Kimberley in South Africa, where the discovery of an 83.5-carat (16.70 g) diamond called the Star of South Africa in 1869 spawned a diamond rush and the digging of the open-pit mine called the Big Hole. Previously, the term kimberlite has been applied to olivine lamproites as Kimberlite II, however this has been in error.

Andesite An intermediate volcanic rock

Andesite ( or ) is an extrusive igneous, volcanic rock, of intermediate composition, with aphanitic to porphyritic texture. In a general sense, it is the intermediate type between basalt and rhyolite, and ranges from 57 to 63% silicon dioxide (SiO2) as illustrated in TAS diagrams. The mineral assemblage is typically dominated by plagioclase plus pyroxene or hornblende. Magnetite, zircon, apatite, ilmenite, biotite, and garnet are common accessory minerals. Alkali feldspar may be present in minor amounts. The quartz-feldspar abundances in andesite and other volcanic rocks are illustrated in QAPF diagrams.

Dunite An ultramafic and ultrabasic rock from Earths mantle and made of the mineral olivine.

Dunite is an igneous, plutonic rock, of ultramafic composition, with coarse-grained or phaneritic texture. The mineral assemblage is greater than 90% olivine, with minor amounts of other minerals such as pyroxene, chromite, magnetite, and pyrope. Dunite is the olivine-rich end-member of the peridotite group of mantle-derived rocks. Dunite and other peridotite rocks are considered the major constituents of the Earth's mantle above a depth of about 400 kilometers. Dunite is rarely found within continental rocks, but where it is found, it typically occurs at the base of ophiolite sequences where slabs of mantle rock from a subduction zone have been thrust onto continental crust by obduction during continental or island arc collisions (orogeny). It is also found in alpine peridotite massifs that represent slivers of sub-continental mantle exposed during collisional orogeny. Dunite typically undergoes retrograde metamorphism in near-surface environments and is altered to serpentinite and soapstone.


A xenolith is a rock fragment that becomes enveloped in a larger rock during the latter's development and solidification. In geology, the term xenolith is almost exclusively used to describe inclusions in igneous rock during magma emplacement and eruption. Xenoliths may be engulfed along the margins of a magma chamber, torn loose from the walls of an erupting lava conduit or explosive diatreme or picked up along the base of a flowing body of lava on the Earth's surface. A xenocryst is an individual foreign crystal included within an igneous body. Examples of xenocrysts are quartz crystals in a silica-deficient lava and diamonds within kimberlite diatremes. Xenoliths can be non-uniform within individual locations, even in areas which are spatially limited, e.g. rhyolite-dominated lava of Niijima volcano (Japan) contains two types of gabbroic xenoliths which are of different origin - they were formed in different temperature and pressure conditions.

Chromite spinel, oxide mineral

Chromite is a mineral and can be described as an iron chromium oxide, with a chemical formula of FeCr2O4. It is an oxide mineral belonging to the spinel group. The element magnesium can substitute for iron in variable amounts as it forms a solid solution with magnesiochromite (MgCr2O4). A substitution of the element aluminium can also occur, leading to hercynite (FeAl2O4). Chromite today is mined particularly to make stainless steel through the production of ferrochrome (FeCr), which is an iron-chromium alloy.

Eclogite A dense, mafic metamorphic rock

Eclogite is a mafic metamorphic rock. Eclogite forms at pressures greater than those typical of the crust of the Earth. An unusually dense rock, eclogite can play an important role in driving convection within the solid Earth.

Pyroxenite igneous rock

Pyroxenite is an ultramafic igneous rock consisting essentially of minerals of the pyroxene group, such as augite, diopside, hypersthene, bronzite or enstatite. Pyroxenites are classified into clinopyroxenites, orthopyroxenites, and the websterites which contain both types of pyroxenes. Closely allied to this group are the hornblendites, consisting essentially of hornblende and other amphiboles.

Ultramafic rock igneous rock type

Ultramafic rocks are igneous and meta-igneous rocks with a very low silica content, generally >18% MgO, high FeO, low potassium, and are composed of usually greater than 90% mafic minerals. The Earth's mantle is composed of ultramafic rocks. Ultrabasic is a more inclusive term that includes igneous rocks with low silica content that may not be extremely enriched in Fe and Mg, such as carbonatites and ultrapotassic igneous rocks.

Pyrope mineral, nesosilicate garnet

The mineral pyrope is a member of the garnet group. Pyrope is the only member of the garnet family to always display red colouration in natural samples, and it is from this characteristic that it gets its name: from the Greek for fire and eye. Despite being less common than most garnets, it is a widely used gemstone with numerous alternative names, some of which are misnomers. Chrome pyrope, and Bohemian garnet are two alternative names, the usage of the latter being discouraged by the Gemological Institute of America. Misnomers include Colorado ruby, Arizona ruby, California ruby, Rocky Mountain ruby, Elie Ruby, Bohemian carbuncle, and Cape ruby.

Komatiite An ultramafic mantle-derived volcanic rock

Komatiite is a type of ultramafic mantle-derived volcanic rock defined as having crystallised from a lava with ≥ 18 wt% MgO. Komatiites have low silicon, potassium and aluminium, and high to extremely high magnesium content. Komatiite was named for its type locality along the Komati River in South Africa, and frequently displays spinifex texture composed of large dendritic plates of olivine and pyroxene.

Layered intrusion large sill-like body of igneous rock

A layered intrusion is a large sill-like body of igneous rock which exhibits vertical layering or differences in composition and texture. These intrusions can be many kilometres in area covering from around 100 km2 (39 sq mi) to over 50,000 km2 (19,000 sq mi) and several hundred metres to over one kilometre (3,300 ft) in thickness. While most layered intrusions are Archean to Proterozoic in age, they may be any age such as the Cenozoic Skaergaard intrusion of east Greenland or the Rum layered intrusion in Scotland. Although most are ultramafic to mafic in composition, the Ilimaussaq intrusive complex of Greenland is an alkalic intrusion.

Cumulate rock

Cumulate rocks are igneous rocks formed by the accumulation of crystals from a magma either by settling or floating. Cumulate rocks are named according to their texture; cumulate texture is diagnostic of the conditions of formation of this group of igneous rocks. Cumulates can be deposited on top of other older cumulates of different composition and colour, typically giving the cumulate rock a layered or banded appearance.

In geology, igneous differentiation, or magmatic differentiation, is an umbrella term for the various processes by which magmas undergo bulk chemical change during the partial melting process, cooling, emplacement, or eruption.

Ultrapotassic igneous rocks are a class of rare, volumetrically minor and generally ultramafic or mafic silica-depleted igneous rocks.

Harzburgite An ultramafic and ultrabasic mantle rock. Found in ophiolites.

Harzburgite, an ultramafic, igneous rock, is a variety of peridotite consisting mostly of the two minerals, olivine and low-calcium (Ca) pyroxene (enstatite); it is named for occurrences in the Harz Mountains of Germany. It commonly contains a few percent chromium-rich spinel as an accessory mineral. Garnet-bearing harzburgite is much less common, found most commonly as xenoliths in kimberlite.

Igneous rock Rock formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava

Igneous rock, or magmatic rock, is one of the three main rock types, the others being sedimentary and metamorphic. Igneous rock is formed through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. The magma can be derived from partial melts of existing rocks in either a planet's mantle or crust. Typically, the melting is caused by one or more of three processes: an increase in temperature, a decrease in pressure, or a change in composition. Solidification into rock occurs either below the surface as intrusive rocks or on the surface as extrusive rocks. Igneous rock may form with crystallization to form granular, crystalline rocks, or without crystallization to form natural glasses. Igneous rocks occur in a wide range of geological settings: shields, platforms, orogens, basins, large igneous provinces, extended crust and oceanic crust.


Tonalite-trondhjemite-granodiorite rocks or TTG rocks are intrusive rocks with typical granitic composition but containing only a small portion of potassium feldspar. Tonalite, trondhjemite, and granodiorite often occur together in geological records, indicating similar petrogenetic processes. Post Archean TTG rocks are present in arc-related batholiths, as well as in ophiolites, while Archean TTG rocks are major components of Archean cratons.


  1. 1 2 Spinel. Mindat.org
  2. Barthelmy, Dave. "Spinel Mineral Data". Webmineral.
  3. Irvine TN (1977). "Origin of chromite layers in the Muskox intrusion and other stratiform intrusions: a new perspective". Geology. 5 (5): 273. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1977)5<273:ooclit>2.0.co;2.
  4. Leuthold J, Blundy JD, Brooker RA (2015). "Experimental petrology constraints on the recycling of mafic cumulate: A focus on Cr-spinel from the Rum Eastern Layered Intrusion, Scotland". Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology. 170 (2): 12. doi:10.1007/s00410-015-1165-0.
  5. O Driscoll B, Emeleus CH, Donaldson CH, Daly JS (2009). "The roles of melt infiltration and cumulate assimilation in the formation of anorthosite and a Cr-spinel seam in the Rum Eastern Layered Intrusion, NW Scotland". Lithos. 111 (1–2): 6–20. doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2008.11.011.
  6. Klemme, Stephan (2004). "The influence of Cr on the garnet–spinel transition in the Earth's mantle: Experiments in the system MgO–Cr2O3–SiO2 and thermodynamic modelling" (PDF). Lithos. 77 (1–4): 639–646. doi:10.1016/j.lithos.2004.03.017.
  7. "SSEF – Leader in coloured gemstone, diamond and pearl testing and certification" . Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  8. "Researchers finding applications for tough spinel ceramic". Phys.org. 24 April 2015.
  9. "Transparent Armor from NRL; Spinel Could Also Ruggedize Your Smart Phone". Naval Research Laboratory. 23 April 2015.