The Black Prince’s Ruby. The Timur Ruby. For centuries, spinel, the great imposter, masqueraded as ruby in Europe’s crown jewels. Until recently, spinel was an underappreciated gem with little consumer recognition. Increasing demand for ruby alternatives rekindled appreciation for spinel’s rich red color and history. In ancient times, southeast Asia’s mines yielded exceptional large spinel crystals, which became the treasured property of kings and emperors, often passing through many hands as spoils of war.