The mineral pyrite or iron pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, is an iron sulfide with the chemical formula FeS2 (iron (II) disulfide). Pyrite is considered the most common form of sulfide minerals.
Pyrite’s metallic luster and pale brass-yellow hue give it a superficial resemblance to gold, hence the well-known nickname of fool’s gold. The color has also led to the nicknames brass, brazzle, and Brazil, primarily used to refer to pyrite found in coal.
The name pyrite is derived from the Greek pyritēs, “of fire” or “in fire”, in turn from pyr, “fire”. In ancient Roman times, this name was applied to several types of stone that would create sparks when struck against steel; Pliny the Elder described one of them as being brassy, almost certainly a reference to what we now call pyrite.
By Georgius Agricola’s time, c. 1550, the term had become a generic term for all of the sulfide minerals.
Pyrite is usually found associated with other sulfides or oxides in quartz veins, sedimentary rock, and metamorphic rock, as well as in coal beds and as a replacement mineral in fossils, but has also been identified in the sclerites of scaly-foot gastropods. Despite being nicknamed fool’s gold, pyrite is sometimes found in association with small quantities of gold. A substantial proportion of the gold is “invisible gold” incorporated into the pyrite. It has been suggested that the presence of both gold and arsenic is a case of coupled substitution but as of 1997 the chemical state of the gold remained controversial.
Pyrite enjoyed brief popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries as a source of ignition in early firearms, most notably the wheel lock, where a sample of pyrite was placed against a circular file to strike the sparks needed to fire the gun.
Pyrite has been used since classical times to manufacture copperas (iron (II) sulfate). Iron pyrite was heaped up and allowed to weather (an example of an early form of heap leaching). The acidic runoff from the heap was then boiled with iron to produce iron sulfate. In the 15th century, new methods of such leaching began to replace the burning of sulfur as a source of sulfuric acid. By the 19th century, it had become the dominant method.
Pyrite remains in commercial use for the production of sulfur dioxide, for use in such applications as the paper industry, and in the manufacture of sulfuric acid. Thermal decomposition of pyrite into FeS (iron (II) sulfide) and elemental sulfur starts at 540 °C (1,004 °F); at around 700 °C (1,292 °F), pS2 is about 1 atm.
A newer commercial use for pyrite is as the cathode material in Energizer brand non-rechargeable lithium batteries.
Pyrite is a semiconductor material with a band gap of 0.95 eV. Pure pyrite is naturally n-type, in both crystal and thin-film forms, potentially due to sulfur vacancies in the pyrite crystal structure acting as n-dopants.
During the early years of the 20th century, pyrite was used as a mineral detector in radio receivers, and is still used by crystal radio hobbyists. Until the vacuum tube matured, the crystal detector was the most sensitive and dependable detector available—with considerable variation between mineral types and even individual samples within a particular type of mineral. Pyrite detectors occupied a midway point between galena detectors and the more mechanically complicated perikon mineral pairs. Pyrite detectors can be as sensitive as a modern 1N34A germanium diode detector.
Pyrite has been proposed as an abundant, non-toxic, inexpensive material in low-cost photovoltaic solar panels. Synthetic iron sulfide was used with copper sulfide to create the photovoltaic material. More recent efforts are working toward thin-film solar cells made entirely of pyrite.
Pyrite is used to make marcasite jewelry. Marcasite jewelry, made from small faceted pieces of pyrite, often set in silver, was known since ancient times and was popular in the Victorian era. At the time when the term became common in jewelry making, “marcasite” referred to all iron sulfides including pyrite, and not to the orthorhombic FeS2 mineral marcasite which is lighter in color, brittle and chemically unstable, and thus not suitable for jewelry making. Marcasite jewelry does not actually contain the mineral marcasite. The specimens of pyrite, when it appears as good quality crystals, are used in decoration. They are also very popular in mineral collecting. Among the sites that provide the best specimens, highlights the exploited in Navajún, La Rioja (Spain).
China represents the main importing country with an import of around 376,000 tonnes, which resulted at 45% of total global imports. China is also the fastest growing in terms of the unroasted iron pyrites imports, with a CAGR of +27.8% from 2007 to 2016. In value terms, China ($47 million) constitutes the largest market for imported unroasted iron pyrites worldwide, making up 65% of global imports.
Formal oxidation states for pyrite, marcasite, and arsenopyrite
From the perspective of classical inorganic chemistry, which assigns formal oxidation states to each atom, pyrite is probably best described as Fe2+S22−. This formalism recognizes that the sulfur atoms in pyrite occur in pairs with clear S–S bonds. These persulfide units can be viewed as derived from hydrogen disulfide, H2S2. Thus pyrite would be more descriptively called iron persulfide, not iron disulfide. In contrast, molybdenite, MoS2, features isolated sulfide (S2−) centers and the oxidation state of molybdenum is Mo4+. The mineral arsenopyrite has the formula FeAsS. Whereas pyrite has S2 subunits, arsenopyrite has [AsS] units, formally derived from deprotonation of H2AsSH. Analysis of classical oxidation states would recommend the description of arsenopyrite as Fe3 + [AsS] 3.
Iron-pyrite FeS2 represents the prototype compound of the crystallographic pyrite structure. The structure is simple cubic and was among the first crystal structures solved by X-ray diffraction. It belongs to the crystallographic space group Pa3 and is denoted by the Strukturbericht notation C2. Under thermodynamic standard conditions the lattice constant of stoichiometric iron pyrite FeS2 amounts to 541.87 pm. The unit cell is composed of a Fe face-centered cubic sublattice into which the S 2 ions are embedded. (Note though that the structure is simple cubic with four iron atoms per cubic unit cell, not face-centered cubic. The iron atoms in the faces are not equivalent by translation alone to the iron atoms at the corners.) The pyrite structure is also used by other compounds MX2 of transition metals M and chalcogens X = O, S, Se and Te. Also certain dipnictides with X standing for P, As and Sb etc. are known to adopt the pyrite structure.
In the first bonding sphere, the Fe atoms are surrounded by six S nearest neighbours, towards six of the eight faces of a distorted octahedron. The material is a semiconductor and the Fe ions should be considered to be in a low spin divalent state (as shown by Mössbauer spectroscopy as well as XPS), rather than a tetravalent state as the stoichiometry would suggest. The material as a whole acts as a Van Vleck paramagnet, despite its low-spin divalency.
The positions of X ions in the pyrite structure may be derived from the fluorite structure, starting from a hypothetical Fe2 + (S−) 2 structure. Whereas F− ions in CaF2 occupy the centre positions of the eight subcubes of the cubic unit cell, the S− ions in FeS2 are shifted from these high symmetry positions along axes to reside on and symmetry-equivalent positions. Here, the parameter u should be regarded as a free atomic parameter that takes different values in different pyrite-structure compounds (iron pyrite FeS2: u(S) = 0.385). The shift from fluorite u = 0.25 to pyrite u = 0.385 is rather large and creates an S–S distance that is clearly a binding one. This is not surprising as in contrast to F− an ion S− is not a closed shell species. It is isoelectronic with a chlorine atom, also undergoing pairing to form Cl2 molecules. Both low spin Fe2+ and the disulfide S22− moieties are closed shell entities, explaining the diamagnetic and semiconducting properties.
The S atoms have bonds with three Fe and one other S atom. The site symmetry at Fe and S positions is accounted for by point symmetry groups C3i and C3, respectively. The missing center of inversion at S lattice sites has important consequences for the crystallographic and physical properties of iron pyrite. These consequences derive from the crystal electric field active at the sulfur lattice site, which causes a polarisation of S ions in the pyrite lattice. The polarisation can be calculated on the basis of higher-order Madelung constants and has to be included in the calculation of the lattice energy by using a generalised Born–Haber cycle. This reflects the fact that the covalent bond in the sulfur pair is inadequately accounted for by a strictly ionic treatment.
Arsenopyrite has a related structure with heteroatomic As–S pairs rather than homoatomic ones. Marcasite also possesses homoatomic anion pairs, but the arrangement of the metal and diatomic anions is different from that of pyrite. Despite its name a chalcopyrite (CuFeS 2) does not contain dianion pairs, but single S2− sulfide anions.
Pyrite usually forms cuboid crystals, sometimes forming in close association to form raspberry-shaped masses called framboids. However, under certain circumstances, it can form anastamozing filaments or T-shaped crystals. Pyrite can also form shapes almost the same as a regular dodecahedral, known as pyritohedra, and this suggests an explanation for the artificial geometrical models found in Europe as early as the 5th century BC.
Cattierite (Co S2) and vaesite (Ni S2) are similar in their structure and belong also to the pyrite group.
Bravoite is a nickel-cobalt bearing variety of pyrite, with > 50% substitution of Ni2+ for Fe2+ within pyrite. Bravoite is not a formally recognized mineral, and is named after Peruvian scientist Jose J. Bravo (1874–1928).
Distinguishing similar minerals
It is distinguishable from native gold by its hardness, brittleness and crystal form. Natural gold tends to be anhedral (irregularly shaped), whereas pyrite comes as either cubes or multifaceted crystals. Pyrite can often be distinguished by the striations which, in many cases, can be seen on its surface. Chalcopyrite is brighter yellow with a greenish hue when wet and is softer (3.5–4 on Mohs’ scale). Arsenopyrite is silver white and does not become more yellow when wet.
Iron pyrite is unstable at Earth’s surface: iron pyrite exposed to air and water decomposes into iron oxides and sulfate. This process is hastened by the action of Acidithiobacillus bacteria which oxidize the pyrite to produce ferrous iron and sulfate. These reactions occur more rapidly when the pyrite is in fine crystals and dust, which is the form it takes in most mining operations.
Sulfate released from decomposing pyrite combines with water, producing sulfuric acid, leading to acid rock drainage. An example of acid rock drainage caused by pyrite is the 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill.
Pyrite oxidation is sufficiently exothermic that underground coal mines in high-sulfur coal seams have occasionally had serious problems with spontaneous combustion in the mined-out areas of the mine. The solution is to hermetically seal the mined-out areas to exclude oxygen.
In modern coal mines, limestone dust is sprayed onto the exposed coal surfaces to reduce the hazard of dust explosions. This has the secondary benefit of neutralizing the acid released by pyrite oxidation and therefore slowing the oxidation cycle described above, thus reducing the likelihood of spontaneous combustion. In the long term, however, oxidation continues, and the hydrated sulfates formed may exert crystallization pressure that can expand cracks in the rock and lead eventually to roof fall.
Weakened building materials
Building stone containing pyrite tends to stain brown as the pyrite oxidizes. This problem appears to be significantly worse if any marcasite is present. The presence of pyrite in the aggregate used to make concrete can lead to severe deterioration as the pyrite oxidizes. In early 2009, problems with Chinese drywall imported into the United States after Hurricane Katrina were attributed to oxidation of pyrite, which releases hydrogen sulfide gas. These problems included a foul odor and corrosion of copper wiring. In the United States, in Canada, and more recently in Ireland, where it was used as underfloor infill, pyrite contamination has caused major structural damage. Modern tests for aggregate materials certify such materials as free of pyrite.
Pyrite and marcasite commonly occur as replacement pseudomorphs after fossils in black shale and other sedimentary rocks formed under reducing environmental conditions. However, pyrite dollars or pyrite suns which have an appearance similar to sand dollars are pseudofossils and lack the pentagonal symmetry of the animal.
What is Pyrite?
Pyrite is a brass-yellow mineral with a bright metallic luster. It has a chemical composition of iron sulfide (FeS2) and is the most common sulfide mineral. It forms at high and low temperatures and occurs, usually in small quantities, in igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks worldwide. Pyrite is so common that many geologists would consider it to be a ubiquitous mineral.
The name “pyrite” is after the Greek “pyr” meaning “fire.” This name was given because pyrite can be used to create the sparks needed for starting a fire if it is struck against metal or another hard material. Pieces of pyrite have also been used as a spark-producing material in flintlock firearms.
Pyrite has a nickname that has become famous – “Fool’s Gold.” The mineral’s gold color, metallic luster, and high specific gravity often cause it to be mistaken for gold by inexperienced prospectors. However, pyrite is often associated with gold. The two minerals often form together, and in some deposits pyrite contains enough included gold to warrant mining.
Hand specimens of pyrite are usually easy to identify. The mineral always has a brass-yellow color, a metallic luster and a high specific gravity. It is harder than other yellow metallic minerals, and its streak is black, usually with a tinge of green. It often occurs in well-formed crystals in the shape of cubes, octahedrons, or pyritohedrons, which often have striated faces.
The only common mineral that has properties similar to pyrite is marcasite, a dimorph of pyrite with the same chemical composition but an orthorhombic crystal structure. Marcasite does not have the same brassy yellow color of pyrite. Instead it is a pale brass color, sometimes with a slight tint of green. Marcasite is more brittle than pyrite and also has a slightly lower specific gravity at 4.8.
Pyrite and gold can easily be distinguished. Gold is very soft and will bend or dent with pin pressure. Pyrite is brittle, and thin pieces will break with pin pressure. Gold leaves a yellow streak, while pyrite’s streak is greenish black. Gold also has a much higher specific gravity. A little careful testing will help you avoid the “Fool’s Gold” problem.
Uses of Pyrite
Pyrite is composed of iron and sulfur; however, the mineral does not serve as an important source of either of these elements. Iron is typically obtained from oxide ores such as hematite and magnetite. These ores occur in much larger accumulations, the iron is easier to extract and the metal is not contaminated with sulfur, which reduces its strength.
Pyrite used to be an important ore for the production of sulfur and sulfuric acid. Today most sulfur is obtained as a byproduct of oil and gas processing. Some sulfur continues to be produced from pyrite as a byproduct of gold production.
Pyrite is occasionally used as a gemstone. It is fashioned into beads, cut into cabochons, faceted, and carved into shapes. This type of jewelry was popular in the United States and Europe in the mid- to late-1800s. Most of the jewelry stones were called “marcasite,” but they are actually pyrite. (Marcasite would be a poor choice for jewelry because it quickly oxidizes, and the oxidation products cause damage to anything that they contact. Pyrite is not an excellent jewelry stone because it easily tarnishes.)
Pyrite as an Ore of Gold
The most important use of pyrite is as an ore of gold. Gold and pyrite form under similar conditions and occur together in the same rocks. In some deposits small amounts of gold occur as inclusions and substitutions within pyrite.
Some pyrites can contain 0.25% gold by weight or more. Although this is a tiny fraction of the ore, the value of gold is so high that the pyrite might be a worthwhile mining target. If pyrite contains 0.25% gold and the gold price is $1500 per troy ounce, then one ton of pyrite will contain about 73 troy ounces of gold worth over $109,000. That is not a guaranteed money-maker. It depends upon how efficiently the gold can be recovered and the cost of the recovery process.
Pyrite and Coal Mining
Sulfur occurs in coal in three different forms: 1) organic sulfur, 2) sulfate minerals, and 3) sulfide minerals (mostly pyrite with minor amounts of marcasite). When the coal is burned, these forms of sulfur are converted into sulfur dioxide gas and contribute to air pollution and acid rain unless they are removed from the emissions. The sulfide mineral content of the coal can be reduced by heavy mineral separation, but this removal is expensive, results in a loss of coal, and cannot be done with 100% efficiency.
The sulfide minerals in coal and its surrounding rocks can produce acid mine drainage. Before mining, these minerals are deep within the ground and below the water table where they are not subject to oxidation. During and after mining the level of the water table often falls, exposing the sulfides to oxidation. This oxidation produces acid mine drainage which contaminates groundwater and streams. Mining also breaks the rocks above and below the coal. This creates more pathways for the movement of oxygenated waters and exposes more surface area to oxidation.
Pyrite and Construction Projects
Crushed stone used to make concrete, concrete block, and asphalt paving materials must be free of pyrite. Pyrite will oxidize when it is exposed to air and moisture. That oxidation will result in the production of acids and a volume change that will damage the concrete and reduce its strength. This damage can result in failure or maintenance problems.
Pyrite should not be present in the base material, subsoil or bedrock under roads, parking lots, or buildings. Oxidation of pyrite can result in damage to pavement, foundations, and floors. In parts of the country where pyrite is commonly found, construction sites should be tested to detect the presence of pyritic materials. If pyrite is detected, the site can be rejected or the problem materials can be excavated and replaced with quality fill.
Pyrite and Organic Material
The conditions of pyrite formation in the sedimentary environment include a supply of iron, a supply of sulfur, and an oxygen-poor environment. This often occurs in association with decaying organic materials. Organic decay consumes oxygen and releases sulfur. For this reason, pyrite commonly and preferentially occurs in dark-colored organic-rich sediments such as coal and black shale. The pyrite often replaces organic materials such as plant debris and shells to create interesting fossils composed of pyrite.
Introduction to the Meaning and Uses of Pyrite
Pyrite is often called “Fool’s Gold,” though there is nothing foolish about this mineral. Within its gleaming beauty is a stone of hidden fire, one that can be sparked to life by striking it against metal or stone. An Earth element, it also resonates with Fire energy, symbolizing the warmth and lasting presence of the sun and the ability to generate wealth by one’s own power. It is masculine in nature, a stone of action, vitality and will, and taps into one’s abilities and potential, stimulating the flow of ideas. It brings confidence and the persistence to carry things through to completion.
As a talisman, Pyrite is a unique protector, drawing energy from the Earth through the physical body and into the aura creating a defensive shield against negative energies, environmental pollutants, emotional attack and physical harm. It also supports one with a spirit of boldness and assertive action when protecting others, the planet, or in standing up for important issues of community. It stimulates the Second and Third Chakras, enhancing will power and the ability to see behind facades to what is real.
An iron sulfide mineral, Pyrite is commonly found around the world in a variety of geological formations, from sedimentary deposits to hydrothermal veins, and as a constituent of metamorphic rocks. It forms in masses, stalactites, grains, globes, striated cubes or twelve-sided pentagonal dodecahedral crystals. It also forms as flat, radial disks called “suns” or “dollars.” It is usually pale brassy-yellow in color, opaque, with a strong gold-like metallic luster, though some forms oxidize in moist environments and may be a darker brownish-gold. The name Pyrite derives from the Greek pyr or pyros, meaning “fire” for its ability to emit sparks when pieces are struck together or against a hard surface.
Pyrite is most noted for its nickname, “Fool’s Gold,” the glittering rock notoriously mistaken by naïve prospectors as real gold. It was also used by dishonest mine owners to salt their mines for the purpose of convincing people they were still gold-producers. Although similar in hue, Pyrite is lighter in color than Gold, and is harder and more brittle. It can’t be scratched with a fingernail or knife. Pyrite is also referred to as Iron Pyrite, and in Germany, “Cat’s Gold.”
Pyrite was highly prized by the native Indian tribes of the Americas as a healing stone of magic, and was polished into mirrors for gazing and divination. Before the 1800’s, it was favored as a decorative stone, carved into rosettes, shoe buckles, rings, snuff boxes and other ornaments, and was extremely popular in England during the Victorian Age for its use in jewelry. Pyrite’s biggest use occurred during World War II when it was mined as a source of Sulfur for producing sulfuric acid used in industry.
Warning: Do not ingest this mineral. Use only the indirect method for preparing elixirs.
Pyrite Uses and Purposes
Pyrite is a protective, shielding stone and is excellent to wear or carry as an amulet to deflect harm and danger. It is especially helpful when one is away from home or performing hazardous work.
Pyrite guards against ongoing control, criticism and manipulation by a partner, parent or employer, lending the power to resist without becoming angry or upset, changing the balance of power.
A piece of Pyrite in the home or workplace energizes the area around it and imparts an immediate increase in vitality. It overcomes intellectual fatigue due to overwork and tiredness of the nervous system by stimulating blood flow to the brain, increasing mental clarity, focus and recall.
Pyrite inspires creativity in art, mathematics, science, architecture and many disciplines, especially those that recognize the inherent perfection and harmonious symmetry of nature and the universe. It stirs the qualities of ambition, commitment and perseverance, and is an ideal stone for students.
In the workplace, Pyrite encourages leadership qualities and is an ally for managers and those working toward promotion.
Pyrite enhances the protective and assertive male energies in both men and women. It boosts women’s self-worth and helps overcome tendencies toward servitude and inferiority. For men, it instills a feeling of confidence in one’s masculinity and supports the enthusiastic expression of male eroticism.
Pyrite Physical Healing Energy
Pyrite supports the ideal of perfect health and well-being, drawing on universal energies to activate the nourishing energies of the body. In healing it often gets fast results, and can be beneficial in cases where no resolution seems possible. It is known for bringing out the cause of diseases for examination, and is helpful in getting to the root of karmic and psychosomatic disease.
This mineral shields the body from environmental pollutants, as well as contagious diseases. It may be useful in fighting colds, flu and other viruses, skin diseases and fungal infections, and may be beneficial in treatments for highly infectious diseases. It has also been used to lessen fever and reduce inflammation, and is an excellent stone of protection for caregivers and medical workers.
Pyrite increases oxygen supply to the blood and strengthens the respiratory and circulatory systems. It is beneficial to the lungs, helping to alleviate asthma and bronchitis, and may be used in treating blood disorders. It assists in treatments of the bones, both in structure and cell formation, and helps prevent and repair DNA damage.
Pyrite also stimulates proper endocrine function and is excellent for combating male impotence and infertility.
Pyrite Emotional Healing Energy
Pyrite is a crystal of positive energy, and is extremely helpful for melancholy and thoughts fixed on misfortune and despair. It relieves anxiety and frustration, and as a mirror to the self, reveals the causes behind these emotions and promotes a search for solutions. Pyrite also allows one to see beyond pretense, to what truly lies behind words and actions. It provides the insight that often things that disturb us in others are also present in us.
Pyrite’s energy is empowering to the spirit, encouraging one to overcome fears and take action. It increases one’s will to accomplish whatever tasks one sets out to do, and can be used to bring one out of one’s shell, becoming more dynamic and confident.
Pyrite Chakra Healing and Balancing Energy
Pyrite is particularly stimulating to the Third, or Solar Plexus Chakra, the energy distribution center and the chakra of relationships. This chakra is located between the ribcage and navel, and controls the immune and digestive systems. When balanced physically, we have strength to fight infections, are free of allergic reactions, and are able to use the nutrients we ingest. When the Solar Plexus is out of balance spiritually, we feel fear – of the disappointment or displeasure of others, or to subordinating our life and pleasures to the will of others. Spiritually, when the solar plexus is in balance we are free to interpret the world through our own thoughts and emotions and not live in fear of violating the dictums of others.
Golden Pyrite also identifies with the Sacral Chakra, or Second Chakra, located below the naval and above the pubic bone at the front of the pelvis. It controls the flow of energy and is the center of gravity of the body. It is the center of the Life Force of the body, and controls the flow of information from the body to the mind and from the mind to the body. Gut feelings, intuition, and other “non-linear” communication comes from this chakra. When it is out of balance the symptoms manifest themselves as confusion, over dependency on others, repression of feelings, inability to feel joy, fear of sensuality or sex, and frustration. When the Sacral Chakra is in balance one has grace, feels pleasure in life, and experiences the flexibility to “go with the flow” and do so in good spirit.
Pyrite Spiritual Energy
Pyrite is an excellent stone of manifestation, allowing one to draw high-frequency energy into the physical body and utilizing it to take action in creating abundance for one’s life. Its frequency stimulates the creative flow of ideas and concepts, and helps one embrace their innate abilities and potential.
Pyrite can also be used in body layouts for balancing polarities and creating harmony within the aura. It should be placed on the Third Chakra, in the hands, and at the Base Chakra to anchor one’s auric field firmly in the body, in proper alignment for optimal functioning of the spiritual self in the physical world.
Pyrite Color Energy
Pyrite reflects the energy of Gold, bringing success, enthusiasm, happiness, and power. It is traditionally the color of kings, riches, and the sun. Gold touches a deep part of our minds, conjuring up images of mystical places and adventure. Light Gold crystals provide us with the simple pleasures of life – cheerfulness and contentment. Dark Gold crystals have a deeper, more pronounced sense of devotion and commitment, providing us with a mature enthusiasm and ability to share a lifelong commitment of care and love.
Holding a Pyrite in each hand during meditation can bring an instant rebalancing and refreshing burst of energy. It is also ideal for ending a meditation to bring the energy fully into the physical realm.
Pyrite Goddess Crystals
Gold crystals honor Persephone, the Greek Goddess of Spring. She represents celebration and the Earth alive with new growth.
Pyrite Talismans and Amulets
Pyrite is the talisman stone of the fire trades: bakers, blacksmiths, and firemen. It also protects those in the building trades.
Pyrite is an Enhancer Mirror crystal. Enhancers have internal crystal lattices of perfect cubic symmetry and internal harmony. As “building block” talismans, their internal structure helps focus our efforts to build on our successes and enhance our lives. They concentrate our energy on the improvements we desire and thought patterns that will produce the actions needed to bring them about.
Mirror crystals are sulfides, usually volcanic in origin and opaque with a metallic sheen or luster. Their mirror-like surfaces have the power to reflect what is normally hidden and are excellent aids for seeing ourselves as we truly are, rather than how we perceive ourselves. They strip away pretensions and reveal truths, as well as helping us avoid being deceived by appearances.
Pyrite Feng Shui
Pyrite utilizes Earth energy, the energy of stability, patience, honesty, balance, and resourcefulness. It is our home energy, the energy of the ground upon which we live, the mountains, plains, shores, and valleys. It is our holdfast in the black cold universe. Use Pyrite to enhance any space that is a resting place, where you need to be firmly in control, safe, and protected. Earth energy is traditionally associated with the Northeast and Southwest areas of a home or room. These are the Skills and Knowledge area, and the Love and Relationship area.
Pyrite also resonates with Fire energy, the energy of enthusiasm, warmth, brightness, illumination and activity. It is Yang in nature. It is the energy of heat, action, emotion and passion – of ideas, of concepts, and sex. It is traditionally associated with the south area of a home or room, and with the fame and reputation area of your dwelling. Use its energy to give your life the boost it needs to enhance your standing in the community and within your family.
Pyrite in Ancient Lore and Legend
The Incas of Peru as well as the Aztecs of southern Mexico were known in antiquity to polish large slabs and rare sizable crystals of Pyrite into mirrors for gazing and scrying. While one side was usually polished flat, the other was highly convex and frequently carved with special symbolic markings.
Crystals of Pyrite were considered stones of power and great magic, frequently used by the medicine people of the North American Indians in amulets, for divination, and in the attire and objects used during their healing ceremonies and incantations.
Pyrite, also called iron pyrite or fool’s gold, a naturally occurring iron disulfide mineral. The name comes from the Greek word pyr, “fire,” because pyrite emits sparks when struck by metal. Pyrite is called fool’s gold; to the novice its colour is deceptively similar to that of a gold nugget. Nodules of pyrite have been found in prehistoric burial mounds, which suggests their use as a means of producing fire. Wheel-lock guns, in which a spring-driven serrated wheel rotated against a piece of pyrite, were used before development of the flintlock. Pure pyrite (FeS2) contains 46.67 percent iron and 53.33 percent sulfur by weight. Its crystals display isometric symmetry.
Pyrite is widely distributed and forms under extremely varied conditions. For example, it can be produced by magmatic (molten rock) segregation, by hydrothermal solutions, and as stalactitic growth. It occurs as an accessory mineral in igneous rocks, in vein deposits with quartz and sulfide minerals, and in sedimentary rocks, such as shale, coal, and limestone.
Pyrite occurs in large deposits in contact metamorphic rocks. Deposits of copper-bearing pyrite are widely distributed and often of great size. They usually occur in or near the contact of eruptive rocks with schists or slates.
Pyrite weathers rapidly to hydrated iron oxide, goethite, or limonite; pseudomorphs of goethite after pyrite are common. This weathering produces a characteristic yellow-brown stain or coating, such as on rusty quartz.
Historically, pyrite was used commercially as a source of sulfur, particularly for the production of sulfuric acid, but today sulfur is largely collected as a by-product of petroleum processing. Because of the availability of much better sources of iron, pyrite is not generally used as an iron ore.
For many years Spain was the largest producer, the large deposits located on the Tinto River being important also for copper. Today Italy and China are the world’s largest producers, followed by Russia and Peru.
Pyrite is sometimes called Fools Gold because of its similarity in color and shape to Gold. In the old mining days, Pyrite was sometimes mistaken for Gold, as they frequently occur together, although Gold and Pyrite can very easily be distinguished by simple observation and testing of characteristics.
Pyrite occurs in numerous shapes and habits. The smaller crystal aggregates may give off a beautiful glistening effect in light, and the larger crystals may be perfectly formed, including fascinating cubes, penetration twins, and other interesting crystal forms. The perfect cubes of Pyrite embedded in a matrix from the famous Spanish mines are especially treasured among collectors. Many of these specimens have fallen out of the matrix and have been repaired by having them glued back into the matrix.
Pyrite has the same chemical formula as the rarer mineral Marcasite, but it crystallizes in a different crystal system, thereby classifying it as a separate mineral species. Aggregates of iron sulfide (FeS2) where the crystal structure cannot be determined without complex analyzing material may be wrongly labeled by dealers. Some Pyrite specimens are labeled as Marcasite, and some Marcasite specimens as Pyrite.
Pyrite was once used as a source of sulfur, but is now only a minor ore for both sulfur and iron. Pyrite from some localities is auriferous, and therefore is used as an ore of gold in gold-bearing localities. Pyrite was polished by the Native Americans in the early times and used as mirrors. Today, it is used as an ornamental stone, as well as a very popular stone for amateur collectors. It is sometimes used as gemstone by being faceted and polished for use as an inexpensive side gemstone in some rings, necklaces, and bracelets.
Pyrite is an extremely common mineral, and good examples occur in numerous localities throughout the world. Only well-known localities are mentioned here.
Enormous deposits of Pyrite in the form of small crystal clusters exist in the Huaron Mining District in Peru. Other outstanding Peruvian localities are the Quiruvilca Mine, La Libertad; and the Huanzala, Huánuco. Most of the amateur collector Pyrite comes from the Peruvian locations in abundance, though fine outstanding crystals have also come from there as well.
In the Ampliación a Victoria Mine, Navajún, La Rioja, (formerly Logroño), Spain, large perfect cubic Pyrite crystals, are mined in abundance. They are frequently embedded in a light brown matrix, and are occasionally inter-penetrating. Excellent pyritohedral crystals occur in Rio Marina on the island of Elba, Italy, which is a classic locality. A locality which has recently brought interestingly shaped, complex Pyrite crystals to the market is the Merelani Hills, Arusha, Tanzania.
In the U.S., fine Pyrite localities are abound. In Park City, Bingham Co., Utah, large, well-shaped pyritohedrons and cubes were once found. The Bingham Canyon Mine, Salt Lake Co., Utah is also a classic occurrence, where few of the excellent Pyrites from the mine are saved from the mining crusher. Large, intergrown cubes, many times partially octahedral, occurred in abundance at Leadville, Lake Co., Colorado. Pyrite “dollars” are well-known from Sparta, Randolph Co., Illinois. The French Creek Mine in Chester Co., Pennsylvania is famous for the octahedral crystals that occur there, although most are distorted. Ross Co., Ohio, produces rounded tubular growths of Pyrite, some reaching several feet in size, as well as growths of spiky, pineapple-like crystals.
Pyrite, the mineral commonly called fool’s gold, may have misled a number of gold miners over the years who confused it for the real thing, but a piece of good-quality pyrite is a must-have treasure for your feng shui collection of crystals and stones. Officially known as iron disulfide, pyrite is a wonderful shiny mineral that instantly wakes up any space. In feng shui, it is known to be highly energetic and generous in its ability to share optimistic energy. Raw pieces of pyrite usually form clusters, but stunning cubes and spheres are also available. You can also choose to wear pyrite in any form of jewelry—from beads and pendants to rings and bracelets. Pyrite carvings are increasingly popular, as well.
The Energy of Pyrite
For alternative healers and crystal enthusiasts, pyrite has a number of energetic virtues:
Pyrite radiates optimistic and cheerful energy that is also solid and grounding.
It is very protective and can shield you from negative energies while promoting a happy and cheerful state of being.
Pyrite is known to share its quality of solid brightness to facilitate better judgment and a clear mental state.
It is an excellent stone to help with any business endeavors, as well as academic pursuits.
Pyrite will give you the optimism, the clarity, and the physical stamina necessary to pursue any of your endeavors.
Pyrite in Feng Shui Practice
Pyrite is one of the best feng shui stones for attracting the energy of wealth and abundance (another popular crystal for wealth is citrine). Pyrite can be used as a cluster, sphere, or cube, or can be used in combination with a variety of other popular feng shui cures for wealth, such as Chinese coins and the abundance ship. Pyrite is also an excellent choice for your wealth vase, as well as a good decor piece for your living room or office. You can also use pyrite in any areas of your home that need the energizing and uplifting solar energy that this stone freely shares.
If you are using pyrite as a feng shui money cure, the best place to have your pyrite is in the wealth and money bagua area of your home (southeast) or the office. You can also place pyrite in your own lucky direction for money. When used as an energizing or protective cure, place your pyrite close to the front door, in the living room or office, or anywhere that will benefit from its unique combination of energies.
Most pyrite available on the commercial market comes from the U.S., South America, and Britain. When using pyrite as a feng shui money cure for the home, choose a pyrite cluster. When using it in business, choose a cube. A pyrite sphere can be excellent in a home office or living room. Of course, you can always benefit from the protective and energizing energy of pyrite when wearing it as jewelry or carrying a small cluster in your pocket or purse.
Did you know?
Fire was pyrite’s most prominent gift to human society. Sparks are created when pyrite is struck against metal or a hard surface and this was one of the earliest methods humans discovered to create flame. Pyrite’s name comes from the Greek phrase, ‘pyrite lithos,’ which means ‘stone which strikes fire.’ Its brilliant metallic luster and brassy to golden color not only makes pyrite stand out from its surrounding rock, but has also caused it to be mistaken for gold by people unfamiliar with the real thing. Sometimes cruelly known as ‘fool’s gold,’ pyrite is actually much harder than gold and often has flat crystal faces that would not occur in real gold. Although no longer considered a valuable mineral in its own right, pyrite in a rock often signals the presence of other hydrothermal minerals and metal ores that do have significant value.
Description and Identifying Characteristics
A brilliant metallic luster and bright yellow to golden color makes pyrite a particularly distinctive and attractive mineral. It often occurs as small cubes to octahedrons that may exhibit faint lines, called striations, on some faces. At first glance, massive pyrite may be mistaken for other yellow, metallic minerals such as chalcopyrite or gold, but its greater hardness should distinguish it from those much softer minerals. Capable of scratching glass, pyrite will only be scratched by the best metal files. Most knife blades will leave its surface unmarked. Marcasite is the only other yellow metallic mineral as hard as pyrite. The two are polymorphs of one another, minerals with the same chemical composition but different crystal structures. Only their crystal shape readily distinguishes the two. Pyrite often occurs as cubes or octahedrons, while marcasite typically exhibits a radiating fibrous texture.
In Our Earth: The Geologic Importance of Pyrite
Although it is not a significant rock-forming mineral, pyrite is very widespread and a common accessory mineral in many rock types. In igneous rocks, pyrite may be disseminated throughout the rock or concentrated in layers if the magma cooled slowly enough for crystals to settle out. Pyrite is also common in contact metamorphic settings or disseminated through sedimentary rocks as a replacement of other minerals. Although pyrite occurs in most hydrothermal veins, it is particularly abundant in sulfide deposits. In fine-grained or organic-rich sedimentary rocks, pyrite may even form discrete pyrite concretions or flattened discs called ‘pyrite dollars’.
In calcite and quartz veins, pyrite is commonly associated with chalcopyrite and other sulfide minerals and metallic ores. Pyrite oxidizes to other iron sulfate minerals that in turn alter to limonite, so the presence of a weathered ‘rusty’ limonite layer may indicate the presence of pyrite in the underlying rock.
In Our Society: The Economic Importance of Pyrite
Despite being a common, iron-rich mineral, pyrite is rarely mined for its own sake, and most of our iron is produced from magnetite and hematite deposits. Those iron oxide minerals occur in larger concentrations and volumes than pyrite, so they are a more economical iron source. Vein pyrite, however, may reveal the presence of other valuable minerals, such as chalcopyrite and gold. In the recent past, pyrite was mined as a sulfur source for sulfuric acid, an essential commodity for chemical industry. This was particularly true during World War II when more traditional sources of sulfur were unavailable, or inadequate, for the increased demand of wartime industry. Presently, most of our sulfur comes from natural gas deposits enriched in hydrogen sulfide.
Although pyrite is no longer prized by modern society, back when survival often depended on fire, pyrite was held in great esteem. The ease with which even a novice could coax flame from pyrite sparks made it a highly regarded mineral.
In Our Future: The Environmental Implications of Pyrite Use
Pyrite’s sulfur content is one of its potential gifts, but it also raises some environmental concerns. As water moves through a pyrite-bearing rock, the pyrite’s iron component may be oxidized, releasing its sulfur to form sulfuric acid. In natural settings this is seldom a concern, but pyrite-rich waste from mining operations can significantly increase the acidity of surface waters. This increased acidity can harm downstream ecosystems and may even pose a serious risk for human populations.
Many coal deposits contain disseminated pyrite and as the coal is burned the pyrite’s sulfur component oxides to form sulfur dioxide. In the atmosphere, sulfur dioxide combines with moisture to produce sulfuric acid. This is an important source of ‘acid rain’, which can damage building stones and monuments, cause a decline in natural lake systems and, in some areas, even pose a significant risk to human health.
Pyrite in the Upper Midwest
Pyrite is common along the borders of Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin, in the northern part of the Upper Mississippi River Valley lead-zinc mining district. There it occurs as vein deposits and as a disseminated replacement mineral in the region’s widespread Paleozoic carbonate rock layers. Pyrite is also found along the Canadian border, in massive sulfide vein deposits of the middle and late Precambrian volcanic rocks of northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota where it is associated with massive chalcopyrite and sphalerite deposits.