Vintage marcasite jewellery

If you want sparkle, but prefer an understated look, then marcasite gemstone jewellery may be perfect for you.  These semi-precious stones are a type of mineral, which range in colour from silver-yellow to bright white silver. When faceted and set into jewellery, they create a subtle sparkling effect, rather than a full on glitz – perfect for adding a hint of shimmer.

Close up of loose marcasite gemstones
Above, a varied selection of vintage marcasites, harvested from old broken jewellery. Notice how some are flat-backed (near the back), and some are the traditional ‘diamond’ shape, depending on the setting of the jewellery they came from. Marcasites generally vary in size from approx 0.5mm to 1.5mm. They are seriously tiny!
marcasite gemstones size close up next to finger
Marcasites next to my pinky finger!
vintage marcasite pave sterling silver ring jewelry
Marcasites can be set into all types of jewellery, and were a popular gemstone to be used in art deco rings.
vintage marcasite swirl silver tone bridal wedding necklace jewellery
Marcasite necklaces have been worn since the 19th Century, and are still hugely popular today. This vintage beauty dates from around the 1960s.
vintage marcasite swirl silver necklace jewelry
The above marcasite necklace when worn
vintage marcasite bow silver brooch jewellery
Marcasites can sometimes develope a yellow/ brown colour over time, as seen in this adorable vintage circa 1970s bow brooch – this is simply age and nothing to worry about 🙂
vintage silver marcasite carved shell cameo brooch jewellery
Had normal glitzy glass paste rhinestones been used to frame this lovely carved shell cameo, they would have detracted from its beauty. Marcasites however, are perfect for giving a crisp finish without over awing the jewellery itself.
vintage cold painted enamel marcasite flower basket brooch jewellery
Flower basket brooches were hugely popular in the 1950s – some were plain or set with rhinestones, while others were encrusted with diamonds and coloured gemstones (depending on your budget!). Marcasites are the happy medium between costume jewellery and fine jewellery, and suit most budgets.
vintage 1950s cold painted enamel marcasite flower silver brooch jewelry
This outstanding marcasite flower brooch has been ‘cold painted’ with enamel (ie, using a paintbrush and enamel paint, rather than more complex true vitreous enamel work which involves firing powdered glass in an oven). Cold painted marcasite enamel jewellery was popular during the 1950s to 1970s, and on a personal note, is one of my all time favourite types of vintage jewellery – it transcends ‘accessory’ and becomes ‘art’.
vintage 60s marcasite collar necklace leaf wedding bridal jewellery
Vintage circa 1960s marcasite and silver tone leaf necklace
vintage marcasite clip on earrings swallow bird silver jewelry
These marcasite bird clip on earrings look like they could have been made recently – but they actually date from the 1950s. Cuteness never goes out of style 🙂
vintage 1970s cultured freshwater pearl marcasite swirl circle brooch jewelry
While a couple of stones missing from vintage marcasite jewellery is quite normal, any more and I consider it damaged and in need of repair (with prices to reflect this.
repairing marcasite stone jewellery
Repairing marcasite jewellery yourself is tricky, but can be done with a steady hand and the right tools. Firstly, you need a good stock of marcasites harvested from other broken jewellery (or buy some online). Match up the sizes to the rest of the marcasites in the jewellery you wish to repair. Next, get yourself some proper ‘jewellery cement’ such as “GS Hypo Cement” – it’s a strong clear specialist jewelry glue that has a super fine nozzle – perfect for tricky work (never use superglue – it dissolves marcasites, as I found to my horror many years ago at my first attempt at marcasite fixing!). Put a tiny dab of cement in the hole you which to place the stone in, and then pick up the marcasite by pressing your finger on it – the natural moisture on your finger will temporarily hold it on. Finally, place it in the hole, and adjust with a pin if needed. This is tricky work, and it may take a few attempts before you get it right.
vintage 1960s marcasite gold tone maltese cross teardrop pendant necklace jewelry
An unusual vintage circa 1960s Maltese cross pendant – gold tone, but set with silver colour marcasites
vintage 60s faux marcasite horse pony eloxal brooch silver jewellery
Spotting faux marcasite jewellery can be hard work, especially because modern real marcasite jewellery can look very similar to vintage faux marcasite jewellery! A good giveaway is the weight – vintage faux-marcasite jewellery, as seen in this cute pony brooch, was made from a metal called Eloxal (a type of aluminium) which was very light in weight – almost weightless! (Vintage Eloxal jewellery was usually made in West Germany and occasionally East Asia, and was popular during the 1960 and 70s because it never tarnished or discoloured). Grab a magnifying glass and have a good look at the stones – if they appear too ‘perfect’ and flush set, it could be faux marcasites (real marcasites are a pain to set straight, and are often even purposely set slightly crooked to give better sparkle and depth to the whole piece of jewelry).
vintage 1960s faux marcasite eloxal panel bracelet chunky jewellery silver celtic knot pattern
A beautiful Celtic inspired vintage circa 1970s faux marcasite panel Eloxal metal bracelet. Two give-aways in identifying the jewellery was its weight (almost weightless when held – a signature of vintage Eloxal metal), and the uniform shape and settings of the ‘stones’. Vintage Eloxal jewellery is a collectable in its own right, and I absolutely love this bracelet!

Tips on how to identify genuine Lapis Lazuli gemstone (and avoid the fakes!)

vintage lapis lazuli nugget chip bead necklace long (1)

Lapis lazuli has been sought after and used in jewellery for thousands of years. It’s rich blue colour, along with those sparkling flecks of fools gold iron pyrites make it truly irresistible! Unfortunately, lapis lazuli has also become one of the most faked gemstones in the world. It’s not easy to tell the difference between fake lazuli and the real gemstone. Many cheap minerals and gemstones (such as poor quality jasper, white howlite, spinel, sodalite or calcite) can be dyed to imitate it, while glass and plastic can been used to copy lapis lazuli too. Here are some quick tips to hopefully help you spot genuine good quality lapis Lazuli (and avoid the fakes) …….

  • Firstly, look at the price. The best lapis lazuli commands very high prices, and tends to be set in gold. So if you see a string of lapis lazuli beads for only a couple of pounds/dollers, they could be fakes or very poor quality dyed stones. In my own personal experience, a standard nice quality lapis lazuli undyed natural bead necklace tends to cost from around £30 upwards.
  • Poor quality Lapis lazuli can be dyed. Lapis lazuli is made up of a mix of minerals: lazurite (which gives it that distinctive blue colour), white calcite, dark grey-blue sodalite and golden ‘fools gold’ flecks of iron pyrites. Too much white in the gemstone means it classed as a cheaper calcite, too much dark blue-grey means it’s a cheaper sodalite. Poor quality lapis lazuli can be dyed to make it appear more desirable (see below photo).
  • To test if your lapis lazuli has been dyed, simply wipe your stone with acetone or alcohol. If it loses its colour it’s either a fake, or a poor quality lazuli dyed to imitate better quality lazuli.

Lapis lazuli silver bracelet identify info how to test lapis lazuli for fakes genuine real gemstones tips
A blue-dyed lapis lazuli braclet – parts of the rock are far too dark blue (a good giveaway) of over dye. There’s also a lot of ‘fools gold’ glitter flecks in the stones – this isn’t desirable, and good quality lazuli has very little in it.
  • Genuine lapis lazuli is around 5.5 on the MOHS gemstone hardness scale (diamonds are 10) which means it will just about scratch glass, though can itself be scratched with a knife.
  • Look for the ‘fool’s gold’ (a.k.a iron pyrites) in your lazuli. These are little random golden flecks and tiny lines of dark metallic gold in the gemstone. Genuine ‘fools gold’ is surprisingly difficult to imitate – it usually ends up looking far too uniform and ‘perfect’ for it to be real.
vintage lazuli faux lapis glass gold brooch jewellery
A faux lapis lazuli vintage costume jewellery brooch circa 1970s, made with glass stones. Notice how the faux lapis lazuli  is quite artificially blue and too perfectly ‘dappled’. The gold-flecks are overly perfect and uniform as well.
vintage gold lapis lazuli faux fake glass paste clip on earrings jewellery
Vintage circa 1970s clip on costume jewellery earrings, made with faux lapis lazuli stones (actually made from glass). The blue markings are giveaway – no graduation of colours, too ‘hard’ an edges, and only 2 colours (light blue and dark blue). Handle and look at as much natural undyed lapis lazuli as possible – go to proper antiques fairs and jewellers, study gemstone books and magazines. I’ve often found museums can unexpectedly turn up great examples of gemstones and jewellery – check out the one’s near to you (or venture out further and make a day of it) – they are often literally hiding hidden gems in there, waiting for you to discover them*.
  • lapis lazuli necklace
    A nice average quality undyed lapis lazuli gemstone bead necklace – note that a couple of the beads show white calcite; more expensive lazuli beads would not have this.
  • ‘Reconstructed Lapis Lazuli means that bits of the leftover lazuli gemstone have been ground up and then binded together to make a new stone or bead. It’s not really a fake as it does contain lazuli… but then it’s not the true real thing either. Re-constituted lapis lazuli often has an unatural pebble dash feel and look to it.
  • If the Lapis Lazuli is simply too uniformly blue, and is cheap to buy, then it’s probably fake. Only the very best top quality Lazuli is a uniform blue colour, with virtually no fools gold. It is incredibly rare, deeply sought after and costs an absolute fortune; this is the type of lazuli you only see set into the finest 18k or 22k gold settings.
  1. Lapis lazuli bracelet gemstone identify info how to test lapis lazuli for fakes genuine real gemstones tips
    Vintage genuine lapis lazuli bracelet.
  • Plastic faux Lapis Lazuli can be identified by holding it and tapping it on your teeth. Plastics will feel almost ‘warm’ (ie not cold like glass or gemstone), and will make a dull quiet clink when gently tapped against your teeth (gemstones and glass make a cold hard higher pitched ‘clink’ on the teeth).
  • As with a lot of gemstones, lapis lazuli can be very cold to the touch. Although glass imitations  are cold as well, they will quickly warm up when held – real gemstones often remain cool even after fairly prolonged holding.
  • Glass faux Lapis Lazuli often has no gold specks in it, although some top quality imitations do. However, the flecks are too smooth and uniformly patterned to be real, and the blue colour is too ‘blue’, shiny and even.
  • Real lapis lazuli will leave a blue-ish mark on a rough surface, such as an unglazed tile. When it’s cut in half, lazuli emits a foul odour; it contains sulfur, and this oxides (and smells foul) on reaction to the air. Both of these tests will of course completely ruin your stone, so I don’t recommend them! (Dyed inferior lapis lazuli will also stain a rough surface).
Lapis Lazuli 925 silver earrings
Lapis Lazuli should be a lovely rich blue colour, as in these fine earrings.

 

Hope these tips help 🙂