As you can see from the first two Beader Designs, there are gemstone alternatives that can make your jewelry more affordable. The most famous gemstone substitute, in this case, a misnamed one, is the Black Prince's Ruby which now adorns the British Imperial Crown. This gem is an egg-sized whopper at 170 carats. The "ruby" is actually a spinel which we now know is a different gemstone altogether.

The Black Prince, Edward of Woodstock, who died in 1376, was the eldest son of King Edward III of England. The Black Prince was a strong and popular military leader of his time. He was given the "ruby" after campaigning for Pedro the Cruel of Castille (in Spain). Back then, all red-coloured gems were called rubies. He predeceased his father so he never became king himself. The Black Prince's tomb is in Canterbury Cathedral in Kent - we took this picture when we were on holiday last year, visiting family.

The spinel's story through the hundreds of years before ending up on the crown makes fascinating reading. Spinels are rarer than rubies and fine large specimens were sought after by royalty. Incredibly, the Black Prince's Ruby is merely the most famous and not the largest. The Timur Ruby (Crown Jewels) and a Russian gem are even larger at 361 and 414 carats respectively. And the biggest one of all is amongst the Crown Jewels of Iran at 500 carats!


1. Gemcal : Gems from the Far East has an excellent article on "The Spinel Story" :

2. Ryan Thompson's website on the famous Crown Jewel gemstones has gorgeous photos :
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