Spinels are bright and lustrous gems which occur in a broad range of colours. Once known as ‘balas rubies’, ‘spinel rubies’ and then ‘ruby spinels’, red spinels have been closely linked with rubies throughout history. Though similar in appearance, they are composed of magnesium aluminium oxide rather than aluminium oxide and thus have a different crystal structure to rubies.
This ring forms part of a collection of 154 gems bequeathed to the V&A by the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend, a cleric and poet. Sir A. H. Church gave additional specimens in 1913. He also compiled the first catalogue Precious Stones: A Guide to the Townshend Collection. The first edition appeared in 1883. The stones are mounted as rings, although they may not have been intended to be worn.