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Marcasite Information

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Marcasite, whose name is derived from the Arabic word for pyrite, is a common and attractive mineral. The two minerals, marcasite and pyrite, are often confused due to their similar characteristics. Marcasite is a polymorph of pyrite which means that it has the same chemistry as pyrite but a different structure and, therefore, different symmetry and crystal shapes. The marcasite/pyrite polymorph pair is probably the most famous polymorph pair next to the diamond/graphite pair. Adding to the confusion between marcasite and pyrite is the use of the word marcasite as a jewelry trade name. The term is applied to small polished and faceted stones that are inlayed in sterling silver - even though they are called marcasite, they are actually pyrite.
   
  Marcasite is difficult to distinguish from pyrite when a lack of distinctive crystal habits exists. In fact, many specimens have been wrongly identified as pyrite or marcasite by even experienced mineral collectors. For many years the iron sulfide "Suns" found in Illinois coal mines were called "Marcasite Suns" (also known as " Marcasite Dollars") until X ray studies showed them to be mostly pyrite. They have a habit that looks like marcasite. The possibility that they were originally marcasite and then later transformed into pyrite is being studied. Now they are correctly called "Pyrite Suns", but the confusion still exists. Many marcasite specimens are distinctive enough to reveal their true identity and make interesting and beautiful display specimens.
   
  The most famous habit for marcasite is its "cock's comb" twinned habit. The crystals appear like a rooster's head crest, hence the name. The habit is very distinctive and cannot be mistaken for any other mineral. In recent years, these marcasite cut stones have been used in the jewelry industry to give marcasite jewelry an antique look.
   
 

Cut Steel Jewelry Information

  Marcasite and cut steel jewelry were the Georgian (1714 - 1837) equivalent of costume jewelry. Cut steel, like the mineral marcasite, was initially used as a substitute for diamonds.  Early cut steel was faceted in a pyramid shape with flat backs and then individually riveted into place on a mounting. The stone known as marcasite is actually pyrite which is an iron sulfite.  When pyrite is faceted, its luster is metallic, and the brilliance comes from light reflecting off the facets. Genuine marcasites are usually set with metal holding the stones in place, inexpensive pieces are often glued into cast mountings.
   
Cleaning Never dip marcasites jewelry in silver or jewelry cleaner it will ruin the marcasites.
   
  I usually just rub the top surface with my thumb just enough to shine the surface. But not too much, to remove the patina from the marcasites jewelry. Or I use a very little silver cleaner on a soft cloth or a jewelry polishing cloth.
   
  The advice on about marcasite antique to vintage jewelry Information comes from jewelry experts Linda and Perry, as well as from our frequent visitors. If you'd like to add anything to this page, or have us add a topic of interest for you, email us at help@jewelry-4-u.com.
 
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