Marcasite Jewelry

Marcasite jewelry is made from a material which is gleaned from iron sulfide and iron pyrite or fool’s gold. Marcasite is the common name that was first given to iron sulfide. Iron sulfide is a material that is commonly found anywhere mining for minerals is performed. However, genuine marcasite is rare in jewelry as in its true form it is extremely delicate in nature and frequently crumbles into a powdery like dust. Therefore what we know as marcasite jewelry is in fact iron pyrite. Iron pyrite which is otherwise known as fool’s gold has the same chemical composition as iron sulfide however they crystallize in a different manner. Iron pyrite is much more durable than its sister component and makes a much better composite for jewelry making.

Marcasite is cut into stones that can range from light grays to black in color. There are some streaks of gold that can be found in some of the stones. These streaks of golden color are the reason for iron pyrite being labeled fool’s gold in history. Miners found these rocks during the time of the gold rush in the 1800’s and mistakenly thought they had found true gold. They soon found out otherwise. The mineral soon became known as fool’s gold due to this.

Marcasite jewelry has a long standing place in history. There have been pieces of this jewelry found in tombs that were excavated from ancient Greece. Other pieces of jewelry have been found in burial areas in both Peruvian and Incan historical digs. However this jewelry really gained popularity during the Victorian Era. Queen Victoria lost her husband early on. She decided that she would wear only dark and somber colors after that time. The country of Britain followed suit. Since marcasite jewelry closely matched these colors, it became extremely popular in that time period and was coveted during that time.

When the era of the 1920’s came along, jewelers learned how to turn marcasite into classic pieces that would imitate those that cost much more. During the time of the depression, many searched for affordable pieces of jewelry that still gave them the look of class and elegance that they needed to portray. Jewelers were able to take sterling silver settings and marcasite stones and imitate white gold and pave diamonds. This gave women choices in jewelry that they had not been able to afford in the past. Many of these pieces are still around today and are sought after by those who collect and wear antique pieces. Many of the settings are one of a kind and cannot be reproduced with today’s methods.

Jewelers used bead settings in order to place marcasite stones in settings during this period of time. The way they would do this was to create a hole in the metal or a nest for the stone to sit in. They would then form the metal up and around the stone until it was stable enough to hold the stone in place. The corners were then brought up and around the stone. A metal bead was then placed in areas around the stone to cement it in place. Marcasite stones that were placed in settings were done in this manner up until the 1960’s.

Now jewelers use glue to hold the stones in place. This is much faster and easier process for setting the stones in place. It is also less expensive as well as less time consuming. The down side to this method is that the stones are not as durable as they once were in their settings. Extreme care should be taken to keep present day marcasite jewelry clean and dry. Marcasite jewelry should not be worn when showering, swimming or even washing one’s hands. The water may cause the jeweler’s glue to dissolve and the stones will become loose in the settings. The stones can then fall out. Cleaning of the stones should be done with a clean dry cloth. The stones should be cleaned gently. No commercial cleaners, steam cleaning or chemicals should be used to clean marcasite jewelry.

Marcasite jewelry has withstood the test of time and has remained a viable choice of jewelry through history and remains a popular choice today. There are many pieces of jewelry both antique and new alike that are available to consumers that can meet anyone’s heart’s desire. It is a very affordable option that has the ability to mimic much more expensive stones while still giving the appearance of classic style and affordable elegance.

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