Marcasite is a gemstone, but can also refer to jewellery made from silver with tiny pieces of pyrite (also known as fool’s gold). The gemstone is very recognisable and due to its intricate use it’s a desirable vintage gemstone.
The gemstone itself is a particularly brittle metallic stone making it unsuitable for everyday wear, however, it is often utilised as a replacement stone for very expensive luxury gemstones such as diamonds. It is generally regarded as a comparably sparkling stone, which is significantly more affordable.
Marcasite appears as a glittering silver-coloured stone, with darker sections intensifying the sparkling effect and creating the visual appearance of facets. Often, a gold-green hue can be found in marcasite stones. Between the various colours and textures of marcasite, this semi-precious gemstone is a popular choice in a range of jewellery types.
Pyrite was generally referred to as marcasite until the 19th century, when it was found to be a different material altogether. Marcasite and pyrite have the different crystal habits for the same chemical makeup, with pyrite being the stronger stone. The additional durability of the pyrite component allowed for stronger marcasite items to be processed and reduced the brittle nature of the designs.
The History of Marcasite Jewellery
The name marcasite is derived from an Arabic word ‘markaschatsa’ meaning ‘fire stone’ because the gemstone can spark when struck with iron or flint. This was one of the early uses of the stone. Marcasite has been used in jewellery for centuries, with examples being found in a range of ancient civilisations such as the Thracians, Egyptians, Incans and Greeks. Marcasite is popular enough that there is even recorded evidence of Cleopatra wearing multiple pieces of marcasite jewellery.
Incan civilisations used marcasite and pyrite in ritual tools as well as for jewellery-making; evidence of which has been located in numerous archaeological sites across South America, suggesting more widespread use in other ancient cultures as well.
Although use of marcasite in jewellery increased and decreased in waves of trends throughout history, it experienced a significant revival in the Victorian period following the death of Prince Albert. Queen Victoria entered a state of mourning which lasted the remainder of her life, and so wore appropriately sombre clothing and accessories. Marcasite was dark enough and varied enough to be a suitable gemstone for mourning jewellery. During her reign, Queen Victoria had an immense influence on all areas of society and culture, and so marcasite became a popular stone for those of all classes who sought to imitate her.
Beyond the Victorian era, marcasite found extended popularity in Art Deco jewellery of the 1920s. Often, marcasite was used to add to the intricate details that are a staple feature of the Art Deco style, being inexpensive enough to be used in bulk and create repeating patterns without being very expensive, like diamonds would be in the same situation. Marcasite was among the most commonly-used gemstones of this era alongside other dark gemstones like jet, onyx and sapphire.
The Meaning of Marcasite Jewellery
When it comes to the symbolism and meanings associated with marcasite, courage and wisdom are typically the most common themes. It is a popular gemstone for aiding in meditation, inspiring creativity in addition to bringing balance.
Marcasite is also said to symbolise boldness and knowledge and is popularly known to reduce tension and irritability. For these reasons, marcasite remains a popular gemstone for those who are interested in spirituality.
Furthermore, science demonstrates that the pyrite utilised in marcasite items is capable of regulating oxygen, actively removing close to 80% of the sulphur in the world’s oceans in the process. For those interested in the symbolic powers of gemstones, marcasite is a popular choice for stabilising one’s breathing because of these reasons.
Marcasite has a long history of usage across the world, and today it is enjoyed as an affordable alternative to a variety of luxury gemstones. The texture it displays lends it an antique charm that a lot of contemporary shoppers find deeply appealing.