Iron Pyrite! Such a popular mineral in our store. Let’s get started!
1) Iron Pyrite is known as “Fool’s Gold” because of its golden luster. Although many an old Western storyline may have involved a prospector thinking he’s hit paydirt but actually just found Iron Pyrite, this is actually very unlikely since the structure of Fool’s Gold is cubical in nature, while gold nuggets and flakes show no such features. Fool’s Gold is also much brighter and shinier in color than unpolished gold. Any but the most green of prospectors would be able to tell the difference.
2) Iron Pyrite doesn’t have a lot of industrial uses (although it was once a source for sulfur and sulfuric acid) , but one of the odder uses for it was for igniting gunpowder in old wheelock pistols and musket.Pieces of Pyrite where put in a ‘jaw’ that clamped down on the Pyrite. The jaw would then be placed against a wound up steel wheel. All of this was next to a primer of gunpowder. When the trigger was pulled the wheel would spin, striking the Pyrite and causing sparks. The powder would ignite and fire the weapon. Later weapons would use pieces of flint, but pyrite was used at first because you didn’t need to shape the pieces beyond getting a chunk big enough to fit in the ‘jaw’ of the weapon. Pyrite is brittle and tended to crumble easily, so it probably wasn’t the best choice.
3) As mentioned above, Iron Pyrite forms in cubes that either clump to make ‘nuggets’ together or grow larger individually in a matrix. The clusters/nuggets tend to shine and seem sparkly because the light is reflecting off various sides of the cubes. Another form taken is a ‘Sun’ where Pyrite crystals form outward from a central cluster of pyrite cubes – this makes for a crude image of the sun with rays much like how a child would draw it.
4) Pyrite is actually unstable and oxidizes when exposed to air or water. Not a big concern with large pieces that are sold, but in mines where Pyrite dust is kicked up and oxidizes there can be actual mine explosions if the Pyrite dust in the air is exposed to an ignition source. Pyrite’s oxidation also weakens it, which is why it has little use in industry (although it does appear in some building stones simply because there is little structural threat and too costly to exclude).
Want to buy your own Iron Pyrite?