Fool’s Gold is any metal or mineral that looks like it is gold when it is found in its natural environment. It is usually iron pyrite, but anything that has a brassy appearance may be considered a type of Fool’s Gold. What makes iron pyrite different is that it isn’t an element or a metal, even though it looks like gold.

It is an ore instead and at one point, it was extensively mined for the sulfur content that it contains. Today, however, you’ll find iron pyrite is used for jewelry under the name of marcasite.

How Long Have We Known About Iron Pyrite?

Iron pyrite has been used in some form since the time of the Roman Empire. The Romans discovered that when this ore was struck, sparks could be created. This was used at first as a method to create fires while out in the wilderness, but over time that spark was also used to create the ignition that was required for early firearms. It’s also been used as a detector in certain radio systems before the vacuum tube became popular.

Today you’ll find a lot of pyrite being used in batteries and in the paper industry. It is a good semiconductor material and works well with the modern rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The paper industry uses the pyrite to secure affordable sources of sulfur dioxide which is required to finalize the paper making process. This can also be used to make sulfuric acid for certain necessary items.

What makes iron pyrite unique is that it tends to form crystals that look like perfect cubes. It is incredibly hard, which is how it is often distinguished from gold itself. The crisp edges are difficult to break down, unlike gold which is soft, which makes the yellow cubes easier to properly identify.

Is There Real Gold in Fool’s Gold?

Although it is called Fool’s Gold, there are some deposits of iron pyrite that do actually contain some gold. That’s because gold and arsenic are both part of the ore formation process. In some places around the world, pyrite ore has been known to contain up to 37% gold! For most prospectors, however, Fool’s Gold is going to have virtually no gold at all.

Fool’s Gold can also show up in jewelry sometimes that folks might want to turn in for cash. Iron pyrite can look like a nice chunk of gold in heirloom pieces, but marcasite has very little value at all. It is usually used to replicate the look of gold without having the associated cost of gold with it. Think about the differences between a diamond and a cubic zirconium and you’ve got an idea of what Fool’s Gold is to real gold.

Fool’s Gold might not be worth a whole lot outside of its ability to spark and look beautiful, but it does have a certain visual charm that is difficult to deny. You won’t get much cash for your iron pyrite, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the different formations and filaments that are part of its formations that can be seen.

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