Perhaps the most stealth gemstone in history, the spinel has endured centuries of mistaken identity. Often confused for a ruby, spinels exhibit the same brilliance and rich pigeon’s blood colour that is so intrinsic to rubies – spinels also come in shades of pinks, purples and blues. Many famous rubies in crown jewels around the world are actually spinels. The most prominent masquerade is the Black Prince’s “ruby,” a 170-carat red spinel that was most likely mined in the mountains of Afghanistan. Its first recorded appearance was in fourteenth-century Spain, and it was owned by a succession of Moorish and Spanish Kings before Edward, Prince of Wales received it in 1367 as payment for a victory battle. Since then, Henry V wore the spinel on his battle helmet, and it now adorns the Imperial State Crown of England. The Timur ruby, a 361-carat red spinel, was most likely owned by Mughal Emperors from the early 16th century, and Queen Elizabeth II is its current owner. Despite their long history of confusion, spinels are magnificent gems in their own right. Their nearly perfect crystal structure and brilliant flash of deep colour render them rarer than rubies. Click ahead to the slideshow to discover some of Sotheby’s Diamonds' most beautiful spinel creations.
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Lead image: Queen Elizabeth II attends the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster. © newsphoto / Alamy Stock Photo