Setting Marcasites

Hello all,

I've searched the archives to no avail.  I need to replace a

marcasite in an old piece of sterling jewelry. Microscopic
examination revealed what appears to be glue residue, yet there are
small prongs around each seat. I want to restore - meaning use
original techniques - if possible. I’m guessing that the tiny
marcasite stone was glued in place, then the prongs moved to secure
the stone. With the recent rebirth of interest in marcasite, I’m
hoping that someone in Orchid has actually set these stones and can
describe the appropriate technique and any tips. Also, since
marcasite is an iron pyrite, what are the limitations for cleaning?
Ultrasonic or not? Thanks in advance to the Orchid community. I
know of nowhere else that knowledge is so openly shared! Judy in
Kansas, where it’s as slick as snot today - lots of cars in the

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
Extension Associate
221 Call Hall Kansas State Univerisity
Manhattan KS 66506
(785) 532-1213 FAX (785) 532-5681

Judy in Kansas,

I would say that I have only seen 1 or 2 pieces of marcasite jewelry
over the years that did not have the stones glued in. The settings
have always seemed to be an ornamental addition only, not a functional
one. Other than having more stones fall out of a piece I have never
had a problem cleaning marcasite jewelry in any traditional manners.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Judy, If you see what appears to be glue residue, it probably is.
Often the original castings were made to appear to have functional
prongs or beads but in actuality the stones were glued in. I have
replaced many marcasites in this situation. First make sure that you
thoroughly clean out the glue residue and then use an epoxy with a
cure time of at least a couple of hours. It is not a good idea to use
an ultrasonic as most of these epoxies will soften in the prolonged
exposure to water and heat.

Joel Schwalb

Dear Judy ,

My experiance with those old pieces is that the stones (although
there are beads present )are not set with the beads but with glue or
epoxy and the beads are decorative. You may find yourself creating an
area that will never match the rest of the piece. Somtimes (usually)
its much cleaner when working on old “stuff"to keep your efforts as
simple as possible. If however you can see that the beads are actually
moved over the stone I would use a” Sharp" # 3 onglete place the
point at the base of the existing bead and very lightly advance the
bead forward" Remember less is better" try not to shape the bead (with
a beading tool ) just keep it looking “unworked” I hope this helps a little .

Karl @ Peace.


I’ve only worked one piece of old marquisette jewelry in the last 8
years that actually was prong set. All the other pieces have been
glued in.

I clean out the remains of the old glue with the point of an Exact
knife, make sure the back of the marquisette is also clean and regale
it in with epoxy. Use a very small amount because it can be difficult
to get at the excess glue that mutes out. This excess certainly does
show on most pieces. Wipe with an alcohol dampened paper towel before
the glue get too stiff. Be sure to check all the other stones by
lightly picking at them with the knife point. I always find at least
5 or 6 in need of regluing. I clean with a soft tooth brush and warm
soapy water, rinse, and dry.


dear Judy, as a “master diamond setter” let me now help you. Those
’prongs’ should be saved as much as possible,

1.) remove all vestiges of the glue, that is a must, or the stone
won’t sit down into the hole well. after that remove any dirt that is
around that particular item.

2.) use a 156C bur “under-cutting burr” and shave off the fine point,
this will allow you to make a better seat for the newer marc. stone
thats coming in.

3.) try and bend back each of those beads, they will be used again
for security.

4.) place that stone in the new cleaned out hole, does it fit, sit
well and not rock ? if so make sure that it now ready for setting.

5.) place stone in the new seat, and ever so gently bend back those
two or three beads and lock the stone in, DO NOT USE FORCE! silver is

6.) oh, make sure that the newer stone is not too thick, as you will
have great difficulty in getting the beads to hold it in permanently.

Enuf said,eh? let me know how it goes, please!..@Gerald
…gerry! not not steam or other stones might come out! just hand brush
with a toothbrush. if you want a sonic clean put ‘it’ in a strainer to
catch anything else.

Dear Judy,

Boy, are you sadistic or what? Setting marcasite is, in my humble
opinion, one of the most difficult things to set, next to hammer
setting opals. O.K. Ready? First, buy lots and lots of extras ( these
buggers are brittle) I wouldn’t recommend gluing them first, they’d
just fall out when the glue deteriorates.Most likely the glue residue
is from someone repairing it before, or an attempt to tighten them The
technique isn’t much different,from regular bead setting, just a lot
more care is needed. I use a wheel bur to make the seat,( they are
flat bottomed after all) it also helps keep the stone from moving
around. You may want to leave the stone out until you raise the beads,
that way the stone doesn’t break or pop out while your doing it. It
also allows you to re-cut the seat if you push metal into the
seat.Don’t actually lay the bead down on the stone,(with the graver)
let the beading tool do that for you. When using the beading tool, be
very gentle,( this is where I crushed them at first.) Gently rock the
beading tool in a circular motion, rather than twisting it. That
should do it, I hope that helped. If you need pictures or if I left
anything out e-mail me and I’ll try to explain better or do up some
digital pictures to make it clearer. This is the way I’ve been doing it
for years and I’ve not had any trouble,of course I’m much better at
showing the technique than describing it.
Dean D. Amick
Hamilton Jewelers
Princeton N.J.

Hi Judy, Jewelery arcasites are not true marcasite but pyrite, a
closely related form of iron sulphide. Pyrite being quite brittle,
I’ve never seen any that were not glued. All prongs I’ve seen were
purely decorative. Hence the tendency to fall out.

I don’t think you need to worry about degradation in cleaning.
However, as iron sulphide, they may be attacked in the pickling acid.
Iron sulphide in hydrochloric acid yields hydrogen sulphide, the
"rotten egg" gas and “sour gas” of the oilfields. Another curious
fact about pyrite is that it is sometimes subject to bacterial attack
by sulphur-loving bacteria, the so-called pyrite disease which is the
bane of mineral collectors. But that’s really more interesting than
significant, otherwise there’d be no antique marcasite jewelery left
at the flea markets.

In short maracsite is a cheap stone, customarily glued.

Hans Durstling
Moncton, Canada

    "Another curious fact about pyrite is that it is sometimes
subject to bacterial attack by sulphur-loving bacteria, the
so-called pyrite disease which is the bane of mineral collectors.
...." Hans Dursting. 

This is very true; there are quite a few bacteria that get the energy
they need to live and multiply from the conversion of sulphur bearing
compounds. However, these all, without exception, need water to
operate. So, if you keep marcasite and other sulphides in a dry,
moisture free environment, you should not have any trouble. –

John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua Nelson NZ

my dear Ordhidian,Hans Durstling Don’t wanna put a damper on your
comment about bead-setting Marcasites. The beads are there for one
purpose only…to hold them in, and not at all for decoration! My
next comment is totally for only. When the Marcasite era
was abound, the improved “quicker-glue” was not invented yet. Hence
the real correct method is to bead these things. As a diamond setter
for 4 decades++, I prefer to bead MY Marcasites initially. If a setter
was to use glue on these stones…‘pyrite’ he would be doing an
injustice to his trade. I always re-bead my Marcasite jewellery at
all times and rely on my experience to set them… I live in
Toronto,eh! @Gerald …gerry, the cyber-setter/teacher!

Hello Judy,

I’ve repaired a lot of marcasite pieces. If you look carefully you
see often Braun underneath the stone and white edge around the stone.
This white stuff has nothing to do with the glue and is often silver
polish. In the early days the marcasites were glued with what we
called “hazenlijm”, (strait translation :Rabbit glue) . It was a glue
based on shellac, and alcohol and some resin. You see it also on
perfume bottles with silver cups and feet. Today I should not use this
stuff, it is to sensitive to heat and aging, also it solves in a lot
painters solvents. That the stones stay in al the time is due to there
light mass. and big glue surface. For repairing I use after cleaning
the setting a small amount of cyanoacrylaat glue (glues eyes and
fingers in second, that kind of stuff) applied with a needle. I should
never put these marcasite objects in an ultrasonic cleaning device.
The stone is not affected by the cleaning, but it removes all stone
who are fixed on the old facion way.

Martin Niemeijer

Judy,Judy,Judy, From my own experiences here’s what I’ve learned. Very
rarely are (at least the one’s I’ve come across), marcasites not
glued. Most of the time, all though they do actually do hold them
sometimes, the prongs really just are for looks. If you put them in
the ultrasonic they will come, out that is. I always clean the piece
on a basket to catch them. some survive the cleaning some don’t just
don’t leave them in any longer than you need to. I have always made
sure to have plenty on hand before I start the job to be sure. there
relatively cheap and easy to find. Make sure you measure them
correctly and becareful with them there easily broken. Good Luck
Matt the Catt