Marcasite Jewelry: A History of the Modern Classic
Marcasite has a rich history as a luxury gem. Learn more about this timeless wardrobe staple.
For centuries, marcasite jewelry has been a symbol of regal high fashion for all social classes.
Marcasite jewelry as we know it today is actually made from a closely related cousin, iron pyrite - commonly known as fool's gold. Pyrite looks very similar to Marcasite. However, it is much sturdier and it's also easier to make into jewelry pieces.
Pure marcasite is actually very fragile. It can quickly turn to dust if not handled carefully.
Although they were originally conceived as a less expensive alternative to diamonds, marcasite (pyrite) jewelry pieces have since taken on their own character and purpose. They've withstood many changes in fashion trends to gain the reliable reputation they have today.
In Ancient Times
The earliest known use of pyrite as jewelry was during Incan rule in South America from about 1100-1500. Pyrite jewelry has been found in burial sites across Peru.
The Incas may have also used large surfaces made of marcasite for various rituals and customs.
Pyrite was also believed to be a favorite of the ancient Greeks.
In fact, the name of the mineral, "pyrite", comes from the Greek language. The "Pyr-" prefix indicates a relationship to fire. This is because ancient people would actually use the mineral to start fires.
These fires would become the sustaining force for many ancient communities. This is why pyrite was so important in early antiquity.
There is even evidence that indigenous cultures in North America used pyrite to cure sickness and promote health. They believed that pyrite could help purify the air one was breathing. This resulted in a variety of health benefits.
Pyrite also reportedly helps stabilize your mood and promote positive thinking. Some say it can even improve focus and clear your mind. This makes marcasite charms a popular choice for students and professionals all over the world.
Although there is varied scientific evidence on these claims, it is widely believed that wearing pyrite jewelry is good for your physical and mental health.
Pyrite jewelry gained popularity due to the laws surrounding diamond distribution.
Diamonds were used as an instrument of separation by European nobility. If you were wearing diamonds, you were seen as a high-class person. Diamonds and other similar jewelry were not readily available to the common folk.
Even if they could afford diamonds, commoners were sometimes restricted by law to live their lives without these precious gems in their jewelry.
This is when the production of pyrite based jewelry started to grow. Common people wanted to purchase and wear jewelry. This was true even though the rich class tried to create a deeper class divide between them.
Many people begin to seek out alternatives to diamonds. So, this stone was a low-cost, available option. The means through which this jewelry was sold was not always legal. However, this meant that supply and demand were great while costs were kept down.
Some people even published reading material that taught people how to make their own pyrite jewelry. Soon, jewelry became more and more popular.
This was true no matter what class you belonged to.
The Rise of Jewelry
If they were able to afford jewelry, common people wanted to be able to wear it. Wearing jewelry, no matter what it was made from, became an extremely popular fashion statement.
It was a way to flaunt wealth and display high-class sensibilities, regardless of class or social hierarchy.
It wasn't until the Victorian era that the noble class began to desire pyrite jewelry for themselves, although it was for a solemn purpose.
When Queen Victoria's consort passed away, she no longer felt that it was appropriate to wear lavish jewelry and flaunt her wealth. Instead, she turned to marcasite to help her through the mourning process.
As pyrite has a dark, silver-black hue, it was a suitable choice for funerals and other solemn occasions. Many people in her court and throughout Europe followed her lead. So, marcasite or pyrite jewelry became even more popular.
During the North American Gold Rush, many people rushed to the western United States and Canada to harvest and sell gold. These prospectors were often used as fakes. This was because they resembled gold, but were worth much less.
This is why pyrite is sometimes known as "Fool's Gold," although it is very useful and valuable in its own right.
In modern times, this stone enjoys immense popularity, rivaling that of diamonds and other forms of jewelry.
Many people choose pyrite jewelry for its old-world charm and historic appeal.
Some even use marcasite as a part of costumes for Victorian-era characters at performances.
It is typically set in silver to give it the gems a brilliant color contrast. These gems can be accompanied by amazing design settings. Some of these settings attempt to imitate the design styles of the past. Others attempt to create something new and fresh.
Taking care of these silver settings requires some work. However, they do not require any more maintenance than what is necessary for jewelry pieces.
How To Wear Your Jewelry
Pyrite jewelry is available for purchase in the form of rings, necklaces, brooches, earrings, and more. The beauty of pyrite is that it is applicable for virtually any setting that requires elegance.
But despite its popularity, marcasite jewelry can still be an extremely unique fashion statement. Its sophistication makes it a fresh addition to any ensemble.
Marcasite is a great choice for people who want to stand out with their jewelry, without having to pay for expensive pieces.
Whether you decide to wear the gems as a part of a larger set or individually, your jewelry is sure to be the talk of your social group.
Don't be afraid to treat yourself to a timeless jewelry set.
These gems have been around for the rise and fall of grand civilizations. This means that they've been popular for thousands of years!
Yet, they are held in the same high esteem they were held in centuries ago. Maybe our ancestors were on to something!
Have any questions about marcasite jewelry or want to purchase some of your own? Please contact us!