Taaffeite is very rare, and is unique in being the only gemstone not recognized as a new mineral species until it had been faceted. The first specimen was found by Count Taaffe in Ireland, in a jeweller’s box of stones.

It looked like spinel, had a pale mauve tinge, and was cushion-cut, but was eventually found to be a new, doubly refractive (rather than singly refractive like spinel) mineral. Since then, more specimens have been found; these range in hue from red to blue to almost colourless.

Taaffeite occurs in Sri Lanka, China, and the former USSR. No imitation taaffeites appear to exist.

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