A great piece of pyrite from our collection of rocks and minerals. Also known as fool's gold apparently because during the Great American gold rush in California during the mid 1800's, the non mining community mistook small pieces of pyrite for gold. This claim is repeated in many articles particularly online but we can find nothing factual to support it.
Despite the similarity in appearance of these two minerals, it is quite easy to tell one from the other. One of the main differences is pyrite is considerably harder and grades 6 to 6.5 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness. It's also brittle so if struck would shatter. Gold on the other hand is much softer and grades just 2 to 2.5 on Mohs scale. It's also ductile which means it has the ability to be drawn out or stretched without losing strength or becoming damaged.
If a small piece of gold weighing as little as a gram was continually pounded, it could be transformed into a flat sheet measuring approximately one metre in diameter. Gold is also much heavier than pyrite and because of its density, is heavier than lead.
When choosing pyrite for our collection we often get drawn towards clusters and cube shaped crystals which are a constant source of fascination. This relatively nondescript piece however really caught our attention. Sadly it's not always possible to capture the magic of rocks and minerals in a photograph and that's definitely the case here. As this pyrite catches the light the colour becomes more golden and its minute crystals sparkle beautifully.