Pyrite

An interesting iron mineral with a storied past – it has been mistaken for gold by miners and panners alike throughout antiquity, hence the name ‘Fools Gold’.

Pyrite is almost always sold as found, but there are some cabochons, beads, and carvings cut from it from time to time.

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Appearance, Uses and History

Pyrite is also, quite commonly, known as ‘fools gold’. This is a reference to the number of miners and prospectors who have mistaken Pyrite with Gold.

It has been used since classical times to create Iron sulfates and sulphuric acid.

In more modern times, it has been used for cathodes in batteries. It has been used for centuries in the creation of Marcasite jewellery, which was especially popular in the Victorian era. Pyrite was used as it is more chemically stable.

It is, of course, very popular with mineral collectors too!


Locales

A relatively worldwide distribution, across every continent. Some particularly nice specimens are found in Australia, Austria, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Greece, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Tanzania, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the USA.

There are some locales ‘more’ equal than others – pyritised fossils from the UK and Russia, Pyrite ‘suns’ from Illinois, USA, and cubic Pyrite from Spain are all very popular.


Mineralogy

Chemistry
Iron sulfide, FeS2
Colours and Variations
Grey, silver, brassy, gold.
Streak
Green-black to brown-black.
Luster
Metallic
Fracture
Very uneven, sometimes conchoidal.
Crystal habit
Cubic, octahedral, massive, radiating, grainy, flaky, nodules, fibrous, concretions, and radiating ‘suns’. Often striated, and sometimes showing twinning.
Mohs hardness
6.0 – 6.5
Specific Gravity
4.9 – 5.2
Easiest testing method
Visual examination and streak test.
Common Treatments
Specimens may rarely be coated in clear varnish to prevent their decay.

Photos of Pyrite

Pyrite-Quartz-165640
Harvard Museum of Natural History. Pyrite. Elba, Livorno, Tuscany, Italy (DerHexer) 2012-07-20
Museo de La Plata - Pirita

Pyrite batere
Pyrite (18858891699)
Pyrite 3

Photos of Pyrite ‘Cubes’

2780M-pyrite1
Cubicpyrite
Pyrite 60608

Pyrite-Quartz-rhqtz-60a
Pyrite-cubes
Pyrite-66566

Photos of Pyrite ‘Suns’

Pyrite-231730
Pyrite-marcasite concretions in carbonaceous shale (Pennsylvanian; coal mine in Randolph County, Illinois, USA) 2 (18587429873)
Pyrite-226409

Photos of Octahedral Pyrite

Pyrite-184712
2793M-pyrite2
Pyrite-Sphalerite-57271

Hazards and Warnings

Almost all rocks, minerals (and, frankly, almost all other substances on earth) can produce toxic dust when cutting, which can cause serious respiratory conditions including silicosis.

When cutting or polishing rocks, minerals, shells, etc, all work should be done wet to minimise the dust, and a suitable respirator or extraction system should be used.


Translations

Please note, the term ‘fools gold’ may be an English language colloquialism and may not make sense when translated.

Arabic:

  • البايرايت
  • البيريت الحديد

Hindi:

  • पाइराइट
  • लोहे का पाइराइट

Portuguese:

  • pirita
  • pirita de ferro
  • tolos de ouro

Bengali:

  • ধাতুমাক্ষিক
  • আয়রন পাইরেট

Indonesian:

  • pirit
  • pirit besi
  • bodoh emas

Punjabi:

  • ਆਇਰਨ ਪਾਇਰਾਇਟ

English:

  • pyrite
  • iron pyrite
  • fools gold

Italian:

  • pirite
  • pirite di ferro

Russian:

  • пирит
  • железный пирит

French:

  • pyrite de fer
  • l’or des fous

Japanese:

  • 黄鉄鉱

Spanish:

  • pirita
  • pirita de hierro
  • pirita ferruginosa
  • oro de tontos

German:

  • Pyrit
  • Eisenpyrit

Korean:

  • 황철석
  • 황철광
  • 바보 금

Thai:

Gujurati:

  • પિરાઇટ
  • આયર્ન પિરાઇટ

Mandarin and Traditional Chinese:

  • 黄铁矿
  • 黃鐵礦
  • 傻瓜金

Urdu:

  • پائرائٹ
  • آئرن پائرائٹ

Further Reading / External Links