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Monday Musings #3: What is an affordable alternative to gold – perhaps Pyrite?

With Cannes Film Festival well under way, it is a fantastic opportunity to admire all the jewels on the red carpet, and consider the role of affordable alternatives to the suites and statement pieces that adorn, and take centre stage. Whilst there is plenty of glitz and glamour, diamonds, sapphires, couture gowns; we have been pondering costume jewellery and the materials involved, such as Pyrite. Pyrite like many other minerals and gems has been used for millennia, notably by the Greeks, Romans, and the Incas used to use enormous slabs in the same way we use mirrors today! It is sometimes confused with marcasite, and commonly referred to as ‘fool’s gold’ due to its (at first glance) visual similarities. Upon closer inspection, the brassy-yellow colour and brittle nature (6 hardness) suggests otherwise. It is widely found in Spain, Italy, Mexico, Peru and France; in large quantities relative to the deposits, as such it is not imitated nor synthetically produced. As it is employed for us to use as ornamental material, this is ideal for costume jewellery (more so in the twentieth and twenty-first century), especially cut en cabochon, or cubic shapes that can be polished.

A selection of Pyrite samples in action: