Marcasite has long been and continues to make up some of our unique and much loved sterling silver jewellery pieces. As it is such a popular gem whilst remaining a relatively niche style, we thought we would take a look through the history of this gem to see why it is so cherished. From the Victorians and even dating as far back as the Incas, marcasite has been adorned and treasured for centuries.
Incan tombs have been found to contain items of marcasite, including jewellery. It is thought that the Incas even created marcasite reflective plate shaped surfaces and employed these in ritual and worship of sun gods. Native American shamen had also been known to use marcasite, or pyrite as it is also known, to heal and delve deep into the soul of the bearer.
Much later in medieval Europe, legal restrictions on the buying and selling of diamonds made way for a new sparkly substitute. Such laws may have been thought to keep the poor under submission and in an identifiable state creating obvious class and wealth divisions. It is said that even Louis 14th of France decreed that only he should wear diamonds. As diamonds, amongst other luxury goods, were legislated to be the reserve of the wealthy and aristocratic, marcasite entered the market as a cheaper alternative.
These laws and sanctions on luxury items created a kind of black market of imitation gemstone productions. Venetians became faux pearl experts, publishing guides on how to make them using egg whites and glass amongst other unusual ingredients.
The ostentatious era of Napoleon as the Emperor of France saw jewels in abundance adorned on the hands, ears and necks of all. Jewellery became the height of fashion and this was marcasite’s time to shine.
By the time Queen Victoria took the throne, brooches, particularly mourning brooches, earrings, necklaces and more were extremely popular. Wearing jewellery became an even greater indication of status and even emotion. Fashions were regulated by a code of conduct which gave clues to the position the wearer had in society. Being a relatively low cost gem at the time, when crafted properly, marcasite allowed for all manner of beautiful jewellery items to be produced, even those which could rival diamonds. Ateliers began to create the most remarkable styles in Art Deco watches, rings, wonderful pins, brooches and lovely bracelet settings.
Marcasite jewellery nowadays is coveted not only for its dazzling shimmer but for its relationship with history and vintage style. No longer standing in the shadows of the diamond, marcasite has emerged to become a fashionable gemstone in its own right.
Want your very own piece of history? You can browse Gemondo’s range of marcasite jewellery here.