Red spinel has been called “the gem that made ruby famous,” because before people could tell gems apart using science, people thought ruby and spinel were the same gemstone. All red gems were called by the same name, ruby, which derived from the Latin word “ruber,” meaning red.

This group of red gemstones was divided into three categories based on where they were found. People called red gems from the modern-day Czech Republic “Bohemian ruby,” those from central Asia “Balas ruby” and those from further east “Oriental ruby.”

As science advanced, gemologists discovered that many Bohemian “rubies” were actually red garnets and many Balas rubies were spinels. As it turns out, the legendary Black Prince’s Ruby and the Timur Ruby, both of which are part of the British Crown jewels, are not actual rubies but rather red spinels!

Because many red spinels were called “Balas rubies” throughout history, their beauty greatly contributed to the lore and legends that made ruby the most desirable colored gemstone. Seen here is a ring set with red spinels and diamonds.