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Marcasite (pyrite)

Marcasite (pyrite)


Hardness: 6-6.5
Density: 5.0-5.2
Chemical formula: FeS2
Crystallography: Orthorhombic (cubic – pyrite)
Color: golden yellow to greyish black. Opaque, metallic luster



Quick identification:


Golden ore is distinctly softer and not brittle. Marcasite is easily differentiated from other gemstones by its unmistakable metallic luster.


How to confirm the authenticity of marcasite (pyrite) in practice without equipment:

(extemporary differentiation – does not have to be reliable)


a) Make a scratch on hidden part of the stone. It should be harder than imitations, which are mainly made from plastic. The genuine material will have the same color in the scratch (i.e. not only colored on the surface).


b) To the touch, marcasite will be distinctly cooler than plastic imitations


c) By holding the stone over the flame for a while, marcasite, unlike plastic imitations, will not start to melt.



Interesting facts about marcasite (pyrite)


1. Marcasite is moisture-, acid- and salt-sensitive. Marcasite jewels should therefore be stored in a thoroughly dry environment.


2. Marcasite jewelry was most popular during the “Art Deco” period (1920-1940).


3. In antiquity, marcasite and pyrite were extracted mostly on island of Elba. Nowadays, the majority of the most beautiful crystals of marcasite and pyrite come from Peru.


4. The name marcasite is scientifically incorrect. In the majority of marcasite jewelry, pyrite is found (it has the same chemical composition, but another crystalline structure). The name marcasite began to be used when pyrite was placed into silver jewelry.


5. The name pyrite comes from Greek word “purites,“ which means " fire."


6. Pyrite is also called “fool’s gold" because of its golden luster. Although it is not gold, in deposits of pyrite small deposits of gold can often be found.


7. Pyrite became very popular in the 16th and 17th centuries when it was used to make sparks in the first flintlock firearms.


8. In old pyrite mines, unprompted explosions would occur due to the oxidation of pyrite by sulfur oxides from coal deposits. The solution is to stop air entering the old mines to eliminate the presence of oxygen.

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