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Pyrite Mineral Properties Facts and Great Photos


The mineral pyrite on display in the Harvard Museum of Natural History



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 Fool's Gold

Pyrite also known as iron pyrite or fool's 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 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 6.5 but is brittle so will shatter very easily. 

If you strike a piece of gold it will keep getting flatter but do the same to pyrite and it will break into many 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 Fool's Gold is widely reported to have come about because during the great American gold rush, pieces of pyrite were said to have been mistaken for gold.  Having looked into this story we can find no factual evidence to support it.

In many Hollywood films involving pirates they would often be seen biting into a coin to confirm it was real gold.  This is almost certainly something that was 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 already being alloyed with another metal to improve hardness.      



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.  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 mass so crystals have no visible external shape or structure.



chunk of the mineral iron pyrite

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.



pyrite mineral on display in a cabinet in the London Natural History Museum



More Interesting Facts About Pyrite

The name pyrite originates from the Greek word pyr meaning fire.  When struck with a hard stone or steel, tiny pieces break away which react with oxygen to create burning hot 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 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 for shielding purposes 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.



Article Photos

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.



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