Spinel is an ancient gem with a long history of being mistaken for other gemstones - usually ruby or sapphire. In fact, brilliant red spinels are sometimes called "Balas Rubies," on account of their similar appearance to the precious gemstone. Spinel can come in a range of colors from brilliant red to pink, purple, blue, and even the occasional green.

Before the advent of modern gemology, it was impossible to tell a red spinel apart from a ruby, so several famous "rubies" - such as the "Black Prince's Ruby" and "Timur Ruby" - have in recent times been discovered to be spinel. In fact, the discovery of the difference between red Spinel and Ruby marked the beginning of modern gemology. The gemstone can be found in various parts of Asia and Africa, with the oldest mines located in southeast Asia.