1. The Mineral Pyrite Fools Gold
2. What Exactly is Pyrite?
3. Pyrite an Interesting Fact
4. Pyrite Healing Properties
5. Article Photos
6. Pyrite | Explore Our Collection
7. Read More
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. Having said that, 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. Pyrite is also lighter in weight and is 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 is brittle so will shatter very easily.
If you pound a piece of gold it will keep getting flatter and flatter but do the same to pyrite and it will break into hundreds of pieces. These two natural 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 apparently during the great American gold rush, pieces of pyrite were said to have been mistaken for gold. Having done extensive research to try and establish whether there's any truth to this story, I have not been able to find anything factual to support it. Apart from it not being mentioned once in the entire history of the great American gold rush, it really is quite easy to tell one material from the other. Even more so 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 much 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 is popular with mineral collectors and for use in alternative therapies such as crystal healing.
Crystals of pyrite 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. Pyrite can also occur in massive form which means it crystallises as one large masse so crystals have no visible external shape or structure.
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 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 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 negative energy and prevents positive energy from escaping from the physical body and aura. It strengthens confidence and 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 energises 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.