If I mentioned red spinels would you know what they are? If you’re a royalist the answer may well be yes but many people will be baffled, writes Charles Hanson.
A red spinel is a coloured gemstone that resemble a ruby and one of the most famous - and biggest - examples adorns the Queen’s crown.
The Black Prince’s Ruby is a large, irregular cabochon red spinel weighing 170 carats and is set at the front of the Imperial State Crown of England.
The spinel is one of the oldest parts of the Crown Jewels with a history dating back to the middle of the 14th century. It has belonged to England’s rulers since 1367 when it was given to its namesake, Edward of Woodstock, known as the Black Prince.
Henry V of England wore a helmet that included the Black Prince’s Ruby on the battlefield in France in 1415 and it’s thought Richard III may have worn the gemstone in his helmet at the Battle of Bosworth, where he died.
Our jewellery consultant David Byrne was reminded of the royal connection when a pair of red spinel gold ear-rings arrived at our Tuesday jewellery valuation day at Etwall. The 20th century gems were valued at £1,500-£2,500.
We love coloured gemstones at Hansons. They capture all the shades of the rainbow and are a particular favourite of our head of jewellery Helen Smith. She is hugely knowledgeable on the topic.
Rarer varieties include black opals – the darker the better – tanzanite, only found in Tanzania, and tourmalines but there are many more.
Vintage and antique gem-set jewellery, rescued from drawers and jewellery boxes, is achieving strong prices at auction.
Diamonds, too, are rising in value and fellow Hansons’ jewellery expert Isabel Murtough has seen and sold all types of diamonds ranging in value from £50 to £150,000.
Diamonds come in different colours, too - steel grey, white, blue, yellow, orange, red, green, pink to purple, brown and black. Coloured diamonds contain impurities or structural defects that cause the shade while pure diamonds are perfectly transparent.
Yellow diamonds are proving popular. In a recent Fine Art jewellery Auction, we sold a yellow diamond trilogy cluster ring for £5,600.
Coloured gemstones also brightened up our April Fine Art Jewellery sale. A diamond and emerald three-stone platinum ring, with a 2.0 carat central emerald, sold for £7,400.
Then there was lot 78, a pink sapphire and diamond tennis bracelet which made £2,900, and lot 74, a ruby and diamond cluster ring, which reached £2,400.
Often coloured gemstones are flanked by diamonds in a design but it’s the striking green of an emerald or the glow of pink sapphires that catch the eye first.
If you love sparkling gems, we have a Jewellery, Watches and Silver Auction on Thursday (April 18), 10am. Browse in advance at our April Antiques and Collectors sale preview at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, on Wednesday (Apr 17), 11am-7pm.
Bring your coloured gemstone jewellery, watches and silver, for free valuation at Etwall Auction Centre on Tuesdays, 9.30am-4.30pm, and Fridays, 10am-4pm – but not Good Friday as we will be closed for the Easter break. Entries invited for our Summer Fine Art Jewellery Auction until June 7, plus monthly jewellery sales. Happy Easter to you all.