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The Real Value of Marcasite (Explained by PRO Geologist)

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Marcasite is a highly valuable mineral when found in vintage jewelry. Marcasite is an iron sulfate. It’s a relatively soft mineral. However, despite this fact, was widely used as a gemstone. It is praised for its metallic luster and warm brassy-yellow color. Quality marcasite jewelry is appreciated as a family heirloom.

Real marcasite antique peise of jewelry costs hundreds of dollars. There is a misunderstanding between marcasite and pyrite. They have similar chemical compositions but different structures. In most cases, it is a pyrite mineral used in jewelry but misleadingly called marcasite. 

Why is marcasite-pyrite misunderstanding so common? How come that sulfide mineral as marcasite, which is a soft, opaque, and easily disintegrated mineral so popular in jewelry?

Is it still valuable? And how much does it worth to buy a marcasite watch or ring? Ready to uncover the history of former sulfur ore that became an index-gem of the specific period in history? Meet marcasite!

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Why is Marcasite So Expensive (The Real Value of Marcasite)
Why is Marcasite So Expensive (The Real Value of Marcasite)

Does Marcasite Have Any Value

Marcasite and its closely related mineral pyrite are believed to be ubiquitous minerals. They share the same mineral composition; however, slightly differ in the crystal structure. As marcasite is widely spread, it is hard to understand why marcasite jewelry is so expensive. But it is! 

Marcasite mineral is quite common, and the price for the specimen is barely higher than 20 dollars. However, when used in jewelry of the 19 century, marcasite-bearing pieces of jewel can reach up to hundreds of dollars. Morden marcasite jewelry costs about 20-50$ per small silver pendant or ring.

Mineralogically, marcasite is iron sulfide (FeS2), the same as pyrite, but they crystallize in different crystal systems:

  • Marcasite is orthorhombic (three axes at right angles), pyramid-like in shape, and abundant in crystals. 
  • Pyrite crystallizes at cubic (isomorphic) crystal system.

Marcasite occurs as bipyramidal and tabular crystals, commonly in coxcomb aggregates and bladed. Crystals frequently form curved formations as well as herringbone patterns.

Also occurs massive, radiating, nodular, as groups of small crystals, and in radiating discs known as dollars. Commonly forms as pseudomorphs over other minerals and fossils, resulting in bizarre shapes and forms.

The most important difference between pyrite and marcasite is their difference in stability on the surface and in the near-surface environment.

Marcasite is much more reactive than pyrite, and it alters at a much more rapid rate. Marcasite will tarnish rapidly when exposed to moisture. 

True marcasite is a poor choice for jewelry because it is brittle and chemically unstable. It reacts with moisture forming sulphuric acid. These are the reasons why pyrite is used instead of real marcasite in “marcasite” jewelry.

The reason for the marcasite-pyrite misunderstanding is that the crystal structure cannot be determined without complex analysis. That is why minerals may be wrongly labeled by dealers and collectors.

Some marcasite specimens are labeled as pyrite and some pyrite specimens as marcasite. Pyrite used as a gemstone is also improperly termed in the jewelry trade as marcasite. This is wholly incorrect, as marcasite is not used as a gemstone.

“Marcasite” jewelry (further we will call it marcasite jewelry as it is used as a term now. Please, note, mineralogically it is pyrite, as it is more stable) is occasionally encountered for sale today, but it was much more popular in Victorian and Art Nouveau designs of the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Much of this jewelry was not made with marcasite. Instead, most were made with pyrite or imitation “gemstones” made of metal. Mineralogical marcasite is almost unknown in this jewelry even though the name “marcasite” is used for it.

Why is Marcasite So Expensive (Explanation)

Marcasite is expensive when mounted in silver jewels of the Victorian or mourning period. Marcasite is not so expensive on its own. It is mostly a symbol of epoch than mineral. Cabinet-size mineral samples of marcasite can be purchased for about 10-20$. 

Marcasite is so expensive in vintage jewelry of the 19 century mostly as it was a sadder stone used in Victorian mourning jewelry. Having brassy-yellow color with an intriguing metallic luster, it was considered more appropriate than diamond during the mourning period after Prince Albert’s death.

Marcasite (or mineralogically speaking pyrite) became popular during the Victorian era. During the 19th century, marcasite was chosen as a sadder stone.

When Prince Albert died in 1861, Queen Victoria didn’t see diamonds as appropriate in mourning. Since she, the queen, couldn’t go without jewelry, she chose marcasite as a shiny but more mourning-appropriate choice. That is why an opaque iron sulfide marcasite got a chance to shine.

An additional reason for marcasite abundance was its wide distribution and cheap price. People used it instead of more extravagant prices. The upper and richer classes used it as an accent to more precious stones.

Favorite vintage marcasite jewelry produced during the Art Nouveau period is often found in nature-inspired brooches or pendants such as leaves, flowers, butterflies, and bees.

Marcasite is found mounted (not glued) into a sterling silver cast. Roze-cut crystals of marcasite (remember, it’s pyrite) were usually accompanied by pearls. Together they created a dark-gray, metallic luster piece of a jewel of extraordinary beauty.

Also, there are mostly marcasite brooches. Rings with marcasite were probably not so resistant, as rings are more prone to mechanical damage and contact with water. There were also magnificent marcasite watches, which are highly desirable on auctions now. 

Victorian period cemented marcasite’s status as timeless. Nowadays, modern marcasite jewel design is created to imitate the vintage design of the Victorian epoch. Contemporary jewels can be purchased for 10-20$ per piece, and stones are mostly glued than mounted.

TIP: Pyrite is a very similar mineral to marcasite. Do you know how to spot fake pyrite? Find out the differences between real and fake pyrite in the article below:


Real vs. Fake Pyrite: Focus on These 7 Differences


What Is Marcasite Worth

So What Is Marcasite Worth
So What Is Marcasite Worth?

Marcasite as a mineral is a common thing, and the price rarely passes the first dozens of dollars. However, when it is a piece of vintage jewelry, the price soars dramatically and can reach hundreds of dollars. 

As a mineral specimen, marcasite can be purchased for 10-20$. Antique marcasite jewelry from the 19 century can reach up to several hundreds of dollars depending on provenance. Morden marcasite jewelry is cheaper, and the price starts from 20-50$ for a small silver-mounted piece of jewel.

Marcasite Price per Different Units

Antique marcasite jewelry can be purchased from 120 to 500$ for a silver-mounted piece. Marcasite is not apprised the way diamonds do (per carat, or ounce) because marcasite is a quite common mineral and is valuable in vintage jewelry mostly. Modern marcasite jewels cost begins from 20$.

FAQ About Marcasite Value

Still did not find the answer to your answers about marcasite value? Find frequently asked questions in the section below:

Is Marcasite Jewelry Valuable?

Marcasite jewelry is highly valuable when they are vintage and was made during the 19 century (the Victorian or mourning period). Such an antique marcasite silver jewelry price fluctuates between 120 – 500$. It is mostly about history and provenance than the weight of stones mounted.

How Much is a Marcasite Ring Worth?

Vintage marcasite rings made of silver are worth from 100 to 200$ depending on the size and provenance. Marcasite rings are quite rare, as marcasite is a soft and easily destroyable mineral. So it’s hard to find a well-preserved ring. Modern marcasite rings are worth 20-50$.

How Much Is a Marcasite Watch Worth?

Real vintage marcasite watch price ranges from 200-500$ depending on the provenance and watch-mechanism condition. Watches are usually made of silver with rose-cut marcasite mounted but never glued. All items should be carefully observed before buying to avoid the purchase of modern analog.

TIP: Have you ever tried taking rocks from your holiday? It is simple when traveling by car but what about traveling by airplane? Check out the rules for rocks when traveling by airplane in the article below:


Are You Able To Bring Rocks On An Airplane? You Can But…


Conclusion

Marcasite jewelry is a significant phenomenon in art and jewelry history. Marcasite was highly praised in the 19 century during the Victorian mourning period, Edwardian period, and at the beginning of the Art Deco style.

Marcasite is an iron sulfide mineral chemically equal to pyrite, which is also known as fool’s gold. The difference between pyrite and marcasite is their crystal structure – the way of atoms arrangement.

Pyrite crystallizes in a cubic crystal system, and marcasite crystallizes in an orthorhombic crystal system. Having the same composition, they have a slightly different crystal appearance. 

Marcasite and pyrite are closely related minerals, and it’s quite challenging to differentiate them with a naked eye. Only sophisticated analytical methods can distinguish two minerals.

In most cases, there is pyrite mounted into jewel, not marcasite. But people are just accustomed to using marcasite names since ancient times creating this kind of misunderstanding.

Marcasite value is not measured by carats or ounces like in the case with diamonds or any other colored gemstones. Marcasite mineral samples usually cost 10-20$ depending on the size and crystal habit.

Real antique silver marcasite jewelry costs from 100 to 500$ for a piece. Modern marcasite jewelry, which imitates a vintage one, can be purchased for about 20-50$, depending on the size and complexity.

Marcasite jewelry is a really special thing. Marcasite as a mineral is worth almost nothing, but it is highly praised in jewelry and considered to be an heirloom of the history of art.

TIP: Ore and mineral are two quite widespread terms. Marcasite is a mineral but do you know what is ore? Check out the differences between ore and mineral in the article below:


Main Differences Between Ore and Mineral You Should Know