1. The Mineral Pyrite Fools Gold
2. What Exactly is Pyrite?
3. Pyrite an Interesting Fact
4. Pyrite Healing Properties
5. Article Photos
6. Our Collection of Pyrite
7. More Information
The Mineral Pyrite aka Fools Gold
Pyrite also known as iron pyrite or fools gold is a natural mineral which can at a glance resemble gold but there are several characteristics which make it quite easy to tell one from the other. The most obvious difference is the colour which is not quite as yellow as gold. The weight of the mineral pyrite is also lighter than gold it's a much harder metal. Gold is surprisingly soft and grades just 2 to 2½ on Mohs scale of mineral hardness which is about the same hardness as a fingernail. Pyrite grades 6 to 6½ but it's brittle so will shatter very easily.
If you hammer a piece of gold it will keep getting flatter and flatter but do the same to the mineral pyrite and it will break into hundreds of pieces. The two minerals also have a different crystal structure and different coloured streak which is a term used to describe the colour of a mineral in powdered form. The streak in pyrite is greenish black whereas in gold it‘s yellow.
The name fools gold is widely reported to have come about because it's said that during the great American gold rush pieces of pyrite were often confused for gold. Having done extensive research to try and establish whether there was any truth to this story, we have not been able to find anything factual to support it. Apart from it not being mentioned once in the entire history of this historical event, it really is quite easy to distinguish one mineral from the other particularly when the two are placed side by side. Furthermore anyone who would have been prospecting for gold at this time would almost certainly have known exactly what they were looking for.
In many Hollywood films involving pirates they would often be seen biting into a coin to confirm that it was real gold but this was almost certainly created for the big screen. Whilst biting down on pure gold may well leave teeth marks, biting a coin from this period in time would not have the same effect because coins were alloyed with another metal so would have been considerably harder.
What Exactly is Pyrite?
Pyrite is an iron sulphide mineral which means it's a chemical compound of iron and sulphide. It contains a high percentage of iron and is relatively common hence can be found in many geological environments. It comes in numerous forms and varieties and is popular with mineral collectors and for use in alternative therapies such as crystal healing. Crystals are often cubic also known as isometric which is one of the simplest and most common shapes found in crystals and minerals. Faces can be striated which is another feature that distinguishes pyrite from gold. It can also occur in massive form which means its formation is one large mass hence the structure of each individual crystal is not visible.
Pyrite. Photo; Ron Wolf
Ironically pyrite and gold form under very similar conditions and can even occur together within the same rock. Inclusions of gold are not uncommon in pyrite which means the mineral could be used as an ore of gold but rarely is. The reason for this is simply because there are many other more suitable minerals from which gold can be extracted.
Although pyrite is a relatively common mineral which can be found worldwide, it generally only occurs in small quantities. The Rio Tinto region of Spain has vast reserves but other countries including Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Japan, Canada and Italy to name just a few have also produced many fine specimens.
More Interesting Facts About Pyrite
The name pyrite originates from the Greek word pyr meaning fire because when struck against metal or another hard surface it sparks. This was one of the earliest methods used by man to create fire. Interestingly the wheel-lock gun developed around the year 1500 was ignited by spinning a spring-loaded steel wheel against a small piece of pyrite in order to generate sparks. The sparks then ignited the gunpowder which in turn ignited the charge in the gun's barrel.
Pyrite Healing Properties
In crystal healing the properties of the mineral pyrite revolve around strength, protection and energy. Widely used as an energy shield pyrite blocks out negative energy and prevents positive energy from escaping from the physical body and aura. It strengthens confidence in masculinity and is said to be helpful for psychosomatic related issues. The energy of pyrite stimulates enthusiasm, eases anxiety and helps combat frustration. It's a great crystal to have on your desk because it prevents a sluggish mood, combats fatigue and energizes the environment.
On a psychological level pyrite boosts self confidence and can help deal with an inferiority complex. It accelerates mental activity, improves memory and mental recall. Meditating with pyrite can help with low mood and depression.
Photographs 1 and 3 in this article were taken by Stone Mania during visits to the Harvard Museum of Natural History and London's Natural History Museum. All three photographs on this page are clickable and redirect to the original full size image.
Our Collection of Pyrite