Marcasite Jewellery dates back to the ancient Greeks, although it was the Victorians who actually popularised it. Especially beloved simply by Queen Victoria herself, it has recently been brought back into fashion by fans of vintage style jewellery. Using its antique look and soft, gentle gleam, marcasite jewellery has a wonderful dull, faded charm, reminiscent of days gone by and faded glamour. Marcasite jewellery is not actually made from the mineral marcasite itself, as this is too vulnerable and tends to crumble when worked.
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Instead, it is made from small pieces of pyrite (fool’s gold) gemstones set into sterling silver.
Cheaper marcasite jewellery will have low quality pyrite shards just glued onto the silver (some jewellers may even use stainless steel instead of silver), but this means that the pyrite stones can be easily dislodged. Top quality items will have cut stones expertly set into the metal with small pins. Depending on how it is cut and the quality of the stone, pyrite has a colour somewhere between bronze plus gunmetal, with an iridescent shine. This type of jewellery is commonly made into Art Deco style designs or to make jewellery that mimicks natural forms (dragonflies and flowers were particular favourites with the Victorians). Brooches, earrings and pendants made in this style is frequently found at antique markets around the UK. Pyrite is quite a solid material, therefore pieces of jewellery made from marcasite have a wonderfully solid and expensive feel. It looks great as part of an overall vintage look, or as an impressive contrast to more modern styles of gown.
Marcasite jewellery can be quite fragile and you are recommended not to use ultrasonic cleansers or chemical dips to clean it. Most of the time it can just be cleaned using a damp cloth – since it is not really meant to be a highly reflective, shiny part of jewellery it does not matter too much if the silver tarnishes a little bit. When the tarnish will get too much, you can just gently polish it with a silver polishing cloth to restore its look.