The Black Prince’s Ruby

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The Black Prince’s Ruby is also known as The Blood-Red “Great Impostor”, because it isn’t actually a ruby at all, but a large spinel.  Spinel is the great impostor and a curse of gemstone history since many famous rubies in crown jewels around the world are actually spinels.

Spinel is a hard, glassy mineral that crystallizes into various colors, but the most commercially important are red and pink.  Spinels are worth significantly less than rubies, but are generally highly sought after by gem connoisseurs. Well-formed spinel crystals are in high demand among collectors.

The gemstone is believed to have been mined from Badakshan, which is present-day Tajikistan. It was first recorded during the 14th century, when it was plundered from the Moorish Kingdom of Granada by Don Pedro the Cruel, who was the ruler of Seville, Spain.

The “ruby” was then owned by Edward of Woodstock, who was called “the Black Prince,” because of his success on the battlefield during the Hundred Years’ War. In 1415, King Henry V attained the Black Prince’s ruby and had it set in his battle helmet alongside real rubies. The king wore the helmet when he defeated the French forces at the Battle of Agincourt.

The gemstone was passed along to British royalty, including Henry VIII and his daughter, Elizabeth I, until King Charles I was beheaded for treason in 1649 and the gemstone was sold. Charles II bought the gemstone back from an unknown party, but nearly lost it when the infamous Irish colonel Thomas Blood attempted to steal the crown jewels of England from the Tower of London in 1671.

The Black Prince’s ruby is currently set dead-center at the front of the Imperial State Crown of England.


Jewelry Judge Ben Gordon provides appraisal and consultation services, either at our Gem Lab or at your home and your jewelry never leaves your sight.  We want you to watch and ask questions during the entire process.

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