What Is Marcasite Jewelry: Origin, Worth, Vintage & Fashion Guide


One of the most fascinating things about fashion is its rich history, use, and global appeal, and marcasite jewelry is no different.

Otherwise, how would you explain what Thailand’s capital Bangkok has to do with the legendary Queen Victoria and the roaring 1920s? Well, it seems that the marcasite gemstone is the main connector.

Marcasite jewelry largely consists of pyrite cabochons stone sizes crystals. The brassy yellow to the white metallic luster of marcasite is an abundant gemstone that can be found in Asia, Europe, or South America respectively. Labeled fools gold, confused with pyrite mineral, vintage jewelry treasured.

It’s time to explore the intrinsic value, and praise, as well as the pros and cons of wearing marcasite brooch jewelry like you were a royal (come on girl, I know you always felt special:).

What Is Marcasite Jewelry Made Of?

Marcasite jewelry is a variety of pyrites, a mineral derivate of oil and gas production today. Back in the old days, the pyrite mineral was cut and polished into what we now call marcasite or mercasite.

The many types of crystal marcasite are made from a pyrite basis and popularized for their versatile use in fashion jewelry creation across time and place. 

There are different ways of making marcasite into stunning jewelry pieces.

How Marcasite Jewelry Is Made

Marcasite bracelets and other pieces can be set into silver using pyrite pieces. Other methods may include gluing on the back of the gem for around 10 minutes, then leaving the item overnight to dry.

Marquisette jewelry (another name given to this stone) comes in all forms from handmade stones of a precious metal ring to lab diamonds circled by marcasite gems and more.

Marcasite vs Pyrite Jewelry Chart

Marcasite Pyrite
Iron sulfide Iron sulfide
Gemstone and metal properties Sulfide mineral
Unstable and brittle Stable and less brittle
Reacts with moisture non-reactive with moisture
Brass yellow, brown, white, silver-grey Brassy yellow
Appears in sedimentary areas Appears in many rock areas
Hardness scale:6 – 6.5 Hardness scale:6 – 6.5
Source:Litawear.com, Wikipedia

Marcasite jewelry, also known as genuine marcasite and pyrite are as demonstrated by the above chart similar in various properties. However, they are by no means the same.

The distinction between marcasite and pyrite lies in their specific physical structure, color, use. Real marcasite is brittle and possesses more instability compared to pyrite. However, a marcasite accessory is of unique color, including silver settings sporadically.

Due to their otherwise close relation, pyrite is therefore mostly chosen for jewelry making as it is easier to form into for example eye-catching marcasite rings and bracelets.

To separate pyrite jewelry from a marcasite brooch, you will need to take a closer look or ask your (online) jewelry store to help you distinguish.

But, why would you?

Both crystals have nearly the same characteristics, whereby the sparkling marcasite necklace might outshine your pyrite piece. Especially in terms of color since marcasite offers a rich variety ranging from white to brownish and yellow hue.

These above marcasite advantages have not only produced fine jewelry for the modern girl and boy but inspired generations of jewel lovers worth briefly mentioning.

Imperfections like the tendency to brittle and other marcasite properties aside, are dealt with as you will see below.

Now you know how to tell the key differences between pyrite and marcasite accessories. It’s time to further familiarize yourself with the inherent value that characterizes this startling jewelry even royals couldn’t resist.

Vintage Marcasite Jewelry Explained

The history of marcasite jewelry is actually not that well documented. Therefore, you are going to briefly learn the most essentials of this less popular gemstone once crowned false gold – for a reason.

Ancient Marcasite

Marcasite is, as previously mentioned, a byproduct of pyrite. The latter is of Greek origin, pyrite meaning fire, and marcasite is said to be of Arabic marqashītā.

These old civilizations are said to have been the ones, if not the only ones, to have been using marcasite jewelry for famous royals as ancient beauty iconic Cleopatra of Egypt (Source).

Victorian Era Marcasite Jewelry

Fast-forward to the 18th century and Queen Victoria enters the jewelry scene by mourning of her husband putting down her opulent gold diamond-stud jewelry collection and replacing it with simple marcasite jewels.

The name of false gold for pyrite-based jewelry is born as well as the jewelry Victorian era of British understatement when it comes to fashion. Simplicity, elegance, and a sense of frugality are now trendy.

The belle époque as the French say establishes marcasite rings and other body accessories to the greater public who, like today, look for fashion inspiration.

The silver-gray appearance of marcasite-based jewelry was the perfect subtle fashion statement for the royals of England and beyond at that time and gave jewelry wearing a new direction as well.

Short after came the roaring 1920s with their vintage jewelry collection that took the world by storm.

Thanks to the variability and color range of marcasites combined with silver brooches, even jewelry costumes were possible, and the ballrooms were filled with marcasite wear across the globe.

Now you know grandma’s secrets on lasting beauty and classic style:)

Marcasite Rings Jewelry Today

When US citizen Meghan Merkle turned Duchess of Essex by marrying Prince Harry of England her dazzling birthstones made of precious gemstones like diamonds, emeralds, or sapphire caught the public’s eye.

In other words, the history of marcasite as a preferred jewelry gem is tied with the abundance of the crystal as well as world events that shaped it just like Meghan’s stones.

Beautiful vintage marcasite necklaces are as modern and special as they used to be in the good old days. Thanks to color variation, pricing, gemstone hardness, and the increasing popularity of combing old and new.

Hipster millennials and Generation X survivors who grew up with FRIENDS or Sex in the City cult series are the most prominent marcasite jewelry lovers, understandably, I have to confess.

A trip to the sunny beaches of Thailand and you will run into a yoga mat where a marcasite necklace peacefully lies next to a Californian female stretching and smiling towards the crashing waves.

What Is Marcasite Worth?

Marcasite earrings, pendants, or bracelets are typically inexpensive jewelry purchases compared to gold or silver, though false gold is the label attached to pyrite-based marcasite silver sets. An original vintage marcasite brooch from the Victorian era or 1920s may be worth more.

The true value of e.g., vintage marcasite jewelry may also be dependent on family heirlooms like a beloved grandmother’s art deco design marcasite pendant, earring set, trombone clasp, and so forth.

How To Clean Marcasite Rings & Necklaces?

Cleaning of marcasite gemstones simply requires brushing the piece smoothly with a toothbrush, including warm water, plus home soap. Marquisette can be brittle, therefore be careful when using ultrasonic cleaning as well, and definitely do not steam as glued stones might get loose.

Is Marcasite Jewelry Unhealthy To Wear?

Marcasite-inspired jewelry like a brooch or a locket can be unhealthy wearing because it can potentially release iron sulfide to the skin. That can cause skin irritations. Moreover, never combine mixed marcasite with water as this may be poisonous.

Other than that the pyrite-based gemstone is suitable as a jewelry wrapping supplement e.g. in a silver diamond setting.

Marcasite Jewelry Conclusion 

More often than not marcasite is a decorative piece, including in costume jewelry where it is usually glued behind due to its brittle character.

Surrounded by beads flower motifs and maybe as part of a precious gemstone like a staggering ruby, the antique marcasite masterpiece is reliable jewelry for the everyday woman or man without breaking the bank.

Art Deco Marcasite Fashion Jewelry Revisited

Pyrite crystals form the foundation before the marcasite setting takes place as you’ve previously discovered in this jewelry guide.

This was then in the time when geometrical Art Deco marcasite popularity peaked and was inaccessible to the average Jane and Joe.

Nowadays, everyone can afford 1920’s marcasite jewelry to look like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich golden Hollywood era or even before, when Queen Victoria was probably the most powerful woman and person on earth.

These times might be long over, but with an alluring vintage-style marcasite stone pendant and corresponding sterling silver ring, you can relive the golden antique marcasite jewelry age or simply mix and match it, surprise yourself and everyone around.

Where to buy marcasite?

You can purchase marcasite jewelry online or at a brick-and-mortar jeweler specializing in this unique stone from a marcasite ring to marcasite bracelet and every fashion accessory in between.

Lastly, the best thing about buying a charming marcasite necklace is the opportunity of intergenerational shared experience. 

Meaning wearing the same jewelry gem, albeit in different styles and epochs, from one strong woman to the next (or men for that matter too, of course).

Ready to try out something different for your fashion jewelry collection? Even your Vogue friends will be blown out by your marked sterling marquisette jewelry.

Bill Dominic

Bill is an art history and business graduate. Moreover, he loves to test, compare, shop jewelry & fashion items for his 5 sisters, girlfriend, nieces when not enjoying a great novel.

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