Marcasite

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Marcasite is a polymorph of pyrite. It has the same chemistry, but a different crystal structure. In the jewelry trade, the names pyrite and marcasite are often used interchangeably. Marcasite is often cut and polished in a cone or pyramid shape and pav set between sterling silver beads to enhance their brilliance.

Marcasite Polished
Marcasite Classification
Common Name Marcasite
Species Marcasite
Marcasite Optical Properties
Transparency Transparent - Semitransparent
Refractive Index 1.810-0.000
Fluorescence SWUV: None
LWUV: None
Pleochroism None
Marcasite Characteristic Physical Properties
Hardness 6-6.5
Streak Greenish Black
Specific Gravity 4.850-4.920 Typical:4.887
Toughness Poor
Luster Metallic
Fracture Uneven
Cleavage Good, in one direction
Marcasite Chemistry & Crystallography
Chemical Name iron sulfide
Chemical Formula FeS2
Crystal System Orthorhombic
Chemistry Classification Sulfide

Marcasite Colors

  • Black Marcasite Black
  • Yellow Marcasite Yellow
  • Gray Marcasite Gray
  • Brown Marcasite Brown

Countries of Origin

Austria; Romania; United States of America (the); Unknown; China; Russian Federation (the); Poland; Italy; Thailand; Peru; Switzerland

History

The marcasite we see in jewelry isn't really marcasite - it's pyrite. Marcasite has the same chemical formula as pyrite but crystallizes in a different crystal system. The reason that pyrite steps in for marcasite is that marcasite may, under some conditions, reduce to a white powder. Not ideal for jewelry! Pyrite retains its marvelous metallic luster and works wonderfully with the silver, and other white metals, in which it is most often set. So - although marcasite and pyrite aren't the same, we use the word marcasite as a descriptive word for pyrite in jewelry. We associate the shimmery marcasite (pyrite) with antique-jewelry pieces. Marcasite adds an element of vintage-elegance to almost every piece of jewelry into which it is set.

Care

Clean in warm water with gentle soap. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Do not use chemicals, ultrasonic or steam cleaners.

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More About Marcasite

In the time of Cleopatra, marcasite was said to be an aid in the preservation of beauty. Legend tells us that she may have worn it for that reason. Marcasite has been called the gemstone of the Incas. They are thought to have been the first people to use it as jewelry. Marcasite jewelry was favored in the court of Queen Victoria after the death of her husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. Her extended period of mourning required everyone at court to be dressed in mourning wear. Marcasite and onyx were the obvious choices for jewelry. Sumptuary laws throughout Europe made it illegal for "commoners" to wear diamonds and other luxury items. Marcasite made an affordable and popular alternative.

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Tim Matthews

Author

Tim Matthews

Tim Matthews is President and Chief Executive Officer of Jewelry Television® (JTV), as well as a member of the company's Board of Directors. He oversees and leads all aspects of the company's powerful omni-digital retail platform that uniquely specializes in fine jewelry and gemstones. His passion for business and gemstones has led him to become a recognized expert in the field of gemology. He is a life member of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A) and has earned Gem-A's highest degrees, the Gemmology (FGA) and Diamond (DGA) diplomas. He is also a Graduate Gemologist (GG) of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and has also completed GIA's Graduate Diplomas in Diamonds, Colored Stones and Pearls. Under his leadership, JTV has become the leader in the sourcing and selling of color gemstones and jewelry.

This page was created on June 27, 2014.

This page was last edited on October 24, 2019.