What is marcasite jewelry?

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What is marcasite jewelry?
Marcasite is often found in antique jewellery (vintage ring image by studio vision 1 from Fotolia.com)

While most jewellery is sold under the name of marcasite, it is actually a pyrite stone. Marcasite is brittle and light and can be easily broken or crumble apart which is why it is not actually used in jewellery. Pyrite has a hardness of 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale, which is hard enough to use in jewellery settings. Marcasite is popular for its dark bronze metallic lustre. It can be found at a very reasonable cost since it is mined and manufactured in several locations all over the world.

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Associations

Marcasite was first used in jewellery in the early 1700s by the Swiss who used it as a replacement for diamonds. It also became popular in the Victoria Era from 1837 to 1901 and is associated with vintage, old-fashioned or estate jewellery. Other minerals that are associated with marcasite are quartz, pyrite, calcite, dolomite, fluorite and other sulphides.

Setting Jewelry

Most of the time, marcasite is secured into jewellery settings by jeweller cement. It is too brittle and unstable to be secured by prongs. Most often, marcasite is set into sterling silver settings.

Cleaning

Marcasite jewellery can be cleaned with a soft, dry cloth to keep it looking shiny and bright. Marcasite jewellery should never be placed in an ultrasonic cleaner or used under a steamer. Harsh chemicals should never be applied to the marcasite stones.

Color

The colour of marcasite can be brassy yellow with a greenish tint. Marcasite may have a multi-coloured tarnish which is a result of oxidation. The unique metallic colour of the marcasite stone is typically complemented with a silver or white gold jewellery setting. The stones are often paired with onyx in jewellery as well. Because marcasite looks antique in nature, new jewellery styled in an antique or vintage way is a popular use for marcasite jewellery.

Mining

Marcasite used for jewellery is mined all over the world. In the United States, marcasite can be found primarily in Utah, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Internationally, marcasite can be found in Peru, Germany, Spain, Russian, South Africa, Sweden and Italy.

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