Friday, April 12, 2013

Mastery of Design: The Townshend Red Spinel, 1840

Red Spinel in an exceptional mount of gold and European-cut diamonds, 1840.
Part of the Townshend Collection at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I like natural spinels. They’re rather difficult to come by, but when you finally see when, you’re immediately struck by the beautiful fire they exhibit and the wide range of colors (or lack thereof) in which they come. Red spinels were once known as “balas rubies,” “spinel rubies” and then “ruby spinels,” and they have been frequently linked with or confused with rubies despite their substantially different chemical makeup.

This ring, set with a fine red spinel framed by a border of European-cut diamonds in a gold mount, forms part of the celebrated collection of 154 gems bequeathed to the V&A by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet. The ring was made c. 1840 purely for the purpose of displaying this exceptional stone. 

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