Vintage Marcasite Jewelry: Marcasite Throughout the Ages
Did you know marcasite jewelry has an extensive history? Marcasite has been an amazing gem in all jewelry pieces. Here's marcasite throughout the ages.
Keyword(s): marcasite jewelry
Are you looking for jewelry that isn't as loud as diamonds or as expensive? Maybe you want something that's subtle, with a shine only if you pay attention.
Marcasite is the stone for you. It's more subtle than other stones, with an almost Halloween-like elegance. It pairs beautifully with shining sterling silver or adds contrast to brighter stones.
You've likely seen marcasite pieces too, many people think of it as "costume jewelry". If it's done cheaply or the gem is fake, it gives off too brassy of a glow.
Quality Marcasite Jewelry is family-heirloom quality. Learn about this semi-precious gem choice below.
What is Marcasite?
Marcasite is a semi-precious stone famous for its unique, stained glass-like shine. It's metallic, green-yellow, brassy, but holds shine like other reflective stones.
It's related to the gem pyrite, which is often called fools gold. Don't think that makes this stone less valuable, though. It's been a top choice for jewelers since the time of the Greeks.
Compared to fool's gold, Marcasite is paler and is sometimes called "white iron pyrite". It's rarer and used more often in jewelry than Pyrite is today.
In stats, Marcasite is orthorhombic (three axes at right angles), pyramid-like in shape and abundant in crystals. It grows in massive chunks, doesn't have a refractive index and its hardness is 6 or 6.5.
It's an opaque stone, that is iridescent in the right light. It forms at low temperatures, like caves and low-temperature veins in clays, shale, and coal.
It occurs in Europe, Mexico, and Peru most often, though the US has some Marcasite mining.
It has low cleavage, which means it's harder to work with, it doesn't break apart evenly.
The name Marcasite comes from the Arabic (Moorish) word for pyrite "marqash?t?".
Ancient History of Marcasite
What we know about the origins of Marcasite as jewelry comes from the Greeks. historians have found marcasite jewelry from ancient Greek culture.
Across the world, the Incas in South America used Marcasite as more general decoration. They'd cut marcasite into huge chunks, using it as room decoration after polishing.
In the Middle Ages, when people had plagues to worry about, Marcasite and Pyrite were medicines.
The stone is a low sulfide and medieval doctors thought applying it cured eye diseases. As Marcasite breaks down, they'd use it to treat toothaches and jam it in to fix cavities.
Not a good time to be in medicine!
Marcasite as a Metaphysical Element
If you're the kind of person who attributes energies and healing properties to gems, read on.
Marcasite is a meditative stone, said to aid in introspection. Use it to connect to the spiritual world with your higher chakras.
It's also said to inspire creativity in arts and creative form. It's a negative energy pusher, helping people forget grudges and unpleasant feelings.
In the modern world, naturopaths believe it helps fight brain fatigue. If you have marcasite and believe in metaphysical energy, wear a piece while studying for a test.
The Popularity of Marcasite Jewelry
The Georgian period saw the rise of Marcasite again after it died out in the middle ages. This is in the 1700's when cutting and molding intricate steel became possible.
Since Marcasite is cheaper and less rare than diamonds, people used it instead of more extravagant prices. The upper and richer classes used it as an accent to more precious stones.
The Victorian era was another time that Marcasite got a chance to shine. It's low cost and wide availability made it popular.
When you look at vintage-inspired Marcasite designs, most imitate this time period.
The 19th century (same era) saw Marcasite as a sadder stone. When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria didn't see diamonds as appropriate in mourning.
Since she, the queen, couldn't go without jewelry, she chose Marcasite as a shiny but more mourning appropriate choice.
This is when Marcasite really took off, as many things do when Royalty popularize them.
Art Deco Marcasite
Structured and geometric forms populated the machine-driven industrial age. In matching form, people began the trend of Art Deco.
Art Deco is famous for its structure and recognizable shapes, unlike intricate pieces of old.
There's a light and dark theme in art deco, which makes darker Marcasite the perfect choice to contrast with brighter stones.
Choosing Vintage Marcasite
Even though Marcasite is only semi-precious and widely available, people make fakes. The look of this gem is achievable with small, polished and cut pieces of steel.
There are a few ways to make sure you get original, authentic Marcasite if buying vintage.
The first step is to look at the back. The stamp on the silver base set is a good hint. You're looking for a stamp that says "925".
Old Marcasite pieces have settings, like diamonds, while newer or cheaper pieces get glued in. You can check this out with a magnifying glass or jewelers loop.
Make sure there are settings (little metal arms) and not just glue holding the stones in place.
Marcasite is soft, relative to the hardness of diamonds or silver. Over time, the exposure to oxygen will make it disintegrate.
Museums with historical pieces keep them in low temperatures, but won't be able to preserve them forever.
Eventually, Marcasite will get crumbly and fall out of its setting or break off.
You can get at least a hundred years of wear out of one piece, though, so don't let that scare you.
When you wear vintage Marcasite, make sure all the stones are in place when you put it on and when you take it off. If you notice something a little loose, take it to a jeweler.
Try not to get Marcasite pieces wet, especially in the chemical water like a hot tub or pool.
Since it's such a delicate stone, you need to be careful cleaning it.
In our opinion, all jewelry should be professionally cleaned. We understand that it can get expensive and you don't always have time for that.
If expert cleaning isn't an option, you can do some gentle work yourself.
Take a damp, very soft cloth and rub over the Marcasite piece. Wipe it down and try not to snag anything.
Do not put it in any heavy duty cleaners or machines, as it will shorten the gem's life.
The most work you'll need to do is to clean the silver settings around your marcasite, other than occasional buffing.
Marcasite in Jewelry Design
Most of the Marcasite pieces we see have another stone in them unless it's a small bracelet or brooch. This is because the small size and affordability of the gem lend itself to a pave-like pattern.
Jewelers can fill in shapes and spaces with marcasite stones to add extra shine without adding huge cost.
These gems are commonly set in sterling silver, polished steel, or gold. Gold and Marcasite pieces are rare-er, and the two soft metals make these pieces especially delicate.
Wearing Marcasite Jewelry
If you'd like to wear this semi-precious stone, pair it with deep or dark colors. Ocean blues and emerald greens will bring out the color undertones.
Need some suggestions or examples of marcasite jewelry? We're showing you our favorite personal pieces below.
Favorite and Available Marcasite Pieces
At Roma Jewelry, we do our best to design pieces that let stones shine. We're not about forcing a semi-lustrous stone to do overtime.
The following are descriptions of available, hand-designed marcasite pieces.
We have two marcasite pieces that are our top sellers for neck adornment.
The first one is a vintage-inspired pendant in sterling silver with onyx detail. The black of the onyx really brings out the depth in the Marcasite stones.
This intricate pendant is diamond shaped, with an oval onyx in the middle. Around the black stone is another oval, traced in sterling silver, with a ring of Marcasite between the inside and outside edges.
Coming from the oval center, this piece blooms out, almost flower-like. There are four large points, each with three marcasite features. In between the four points is intricate sterling silver designs sandwiching another stone.
This elegant pendant is best paired with a simple neckline and stud earrings. It will be the subtle yet appreciated star of the show.
Sterling Silver & Marcasite with Amethyst Statement Necklace
Inspired by the Marcasite time of Royals, this collarbone hugging piece will make you feel like a queen. This 17-inch necklace with a locking latch clasp will make your friends ooh and ahh.
Its gorgeous and intricate sterling silver shapes resemble small ivy-like leaves. With a small to large leaf pattern from neck to center, the balance of delicate to shine is appropriate for any venue.
The purple amethysts peek in and out of the ivy leaves, contrasting with darker Marcasite.
With its intricate design, small gaps in the ivy leaves show the skin, keeping a look of negative space.
Matching earrings are available, to round out this royal look.
If this necklace is a little too much for you, try our Sterling and Marcasite 17" Necklace with Pear Amethyst. You get the color combinations of the necklace above but a more simple shape on your neck.
We love some good arm candy, in the jewelry sense of the term. Check out a few of our options for your wrist below.
Sterling & Marcasite Bracelet with Mother of Pearl Flowerlets
Remember how we talked about Art Deco designs with their aspects of dark and light? This tennis-style bracelet balances that perfectly.
The mother of pearl's pearly white luminescence brings out the color depth of marcasite stones. In mini flower-lets, this bracelet's stone shaping looks almost like glammed out ladybugs.
It doesn't look like you have bugs on your wrist, though. This bracelet is intricate yet elegance. It even has the touch of gems on the vintage style clasp.
A simple pearl necklace or pearl studs will round this look out and bring people flocking to you.
Sterling & Marcasite Stacked Links Bracelets
If you like more abstract style jewelry or Celtic-inspired intricacy, check out this geometric pick.
It's stacked chain of diamond-shaped sterling silver links, inset with marcasite, are almost chevron-like.
More gender-neutral than the other bracelets on this list, the elegant man could get away with this chunky design yet delicate presentation.
Who doesn't love a little dangle? Marcasite earrings will add some shine to your look without blinding passers-by. If you like florals, but not in the classic all-pink girly way, check out the next pick.
Sterling & Marcasite Rose Earrings
There's something rock-chic while boho glam about these dark rose shaped earrings. The delicate rose shape contrasts with dark silver and marcasite.
It's almost like instead of painting her roses red, the Queen of Hearts painted everything a deep, shimmery silver. These earrings are statement pieces without being dangly if you don't like ear weight.
Round it out with a matching rose pendant and you're good to go!
Buying Marcasite Jewelry
The most important thing when you buy Marcasite jewelry or bling of any type is to trust your jeweler. There are companies that will take advantage of fake stones, though we're not one of them.
Make sure you don't get gypped with a fake and do your research like you just did by reading this article.
Adding Marcasite to your jewelry box is an edgy yet elegant way to bring in darker colors. Channel royalty of old and Greek wisdom when you wear these beautiful contrasting pieces.
There are more choices on our site than we could list here, along with plenty of other stone types. Check out our selection!