Feature Gems & Gemology, Spring 1984, Vol. 20, No. 1

'Cobalt-Blue' Gem Spinels

The traditional gemological technique for distinguishing natural from synthetic blue spinel has involved the use of refractive index and absorption spectra. Recently, however, the standard interpretation of these tests has proved troublesome in the identification of several intensely colored blue stones that have R.I.'s in the range of natural blue spinels but that exhibit spectral features generally associated with synthetic cobalt-colored spinels. To establish the origin of these specimens, a detailed investigation of natural, flame-fusion, and flux blue spinels was carried out. Our results indicate that, while spectral features in the longer wavelengths are unreliable for separating these spinels, an iron-related absorption band at about 460 nm was seen only in our natural specimens. Flame-fusion synthetics may still be distinguished by their lower R.I.'s.