Landgirl1980: Although I dress in a Forties inspired way, I have a deep love of Victorian and Edwardian fashion too. Perhaps this stems from being obsessed with period drama –  the corsets, long skirts, the neat ankle length boots and the abundance of hair, sculpted into elaborate plaits and buns. I have not ventured into wearing any of it yet, but there is always time. One thing that does grace my wardrobe with beginnings in these eras is Marcasite jewellery. With it’s grey, silver and sparkly hues, it always catches my eye and brightens any little black dress. Or any outfit at all, come to think of it.

Often called “Fools Gold” on account of early prospectors mistaking it for the yellow stuff, it is made from pyrite, a mineral which is formed of iron. It is usually mined in close proximity to gold –  which always makes me wonder about the colossal forces in place to create it. There are records of it being used for jewellery by the Ancient Greeks and Cleopatra is rumoured to have worn it to prolong her beauty. It was not all ass’s milk and honey.

However, it became a popular staple when adopted by Queen Victoria as her rock of choice. After her beloved husband, Prince Albert, died in 1861, Queen Vic plummeted into a state of mourning that lasted for the next 40 years, taking the nation with her into the sombre colours we associate with the era today. That said, she still liked to wear jewellery, and Marcasite fitted perfectly, with it’s ability to catch the light, but remain suitably dark.

Being cheaper than diamonds, but with a similar impact, the demand for Marcasite jewellery – set into silver in the form of rings, earrings, watch straps, brooches, hat pins and pendants – lasted right into the Forties. It was used part of the Art Nouveau movement and was sought after as the affordable bling of the Thirties. There are plenty of vintage pieces to be had on the market –  ranging from thrifted finds at the jumble sale to top price pieces online and on the high street. There has also been a resurgence in popularity and modern jewellery makers tend to use yester-year as design inspiration, as well as original molds from those ears. The ring featured is a prime example of this. A gift for my 30th from my parents, it is actually a 1937 design from a present day shop.

Caring for this kind of jewellery is pretty simple – but a little different to your average emerald. Firstly, most Marcasite is set and glued. If the setting is tight, you should have no worries –  but rely on this at your peril. Like that fluffy Mogwai creature from Gremlins – avoid getting your piece wet if you can at all help it. This will weaken and eventually dissolve the glue and you may lose bits of the design. I have suffered this myself, and it still makes me sad. Buff lacklustre items with a soft cloth only and try to keep them in a soft pouch. If your item does become embedded with dirt (that’s the last time I forget to take off my finger jewels before making pastry) then you can use a little water on an old tooth brush to loosen the grime.

I adore this kind of jewellery for it’s instant glam-ness. Be that a combination it a jacket and brooch, a simple up-do with slick of lippy and a pair of twinkly earrings or a full on dress and a matching Marcasite set. It is also fab for those who like to mix and match their eras. Or perhaps you are new to a retro look and jewellery is your first experiment. In that case, Marcasite, for me, screams “times-gone-by”, even if it is plonked on a denim jacket for a night out.

Those little dark flecks are a real cross over must have.

LandGirl1980 is Charly Surry, a gal with a penchant for history, head-scarves and humour.
Charly is a full time retro dressing, history book reading, letter writing (the pen & paper kind), old recipe trying, hair setting, red lippy wearing, cat loving lass. The female role within both World Wars grabs her interest most, but she also has a thing for Anne Boleyn and Royal History in general. Charly runs Well Rounded Retro, an Etsy shop stocking mainly plus-sized vintage and retro.



3 Responses

  1. Rachel

    Great post! I have a Marcasite piece or two sitting in the bottom of my jewelry box. I’m going to dig them out. Seems I’ve been mistreating them. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. Nikki HF

    I love your bow & heart brooch! Vintage marcasite jewellery is so stunning – the enamel & marcasite brooches of flowers and birds from the 1950s & 60s are my own favourites 🙂

    Great read 🙂