Pyrite Gemstone Information
Pyrite has long been a favorite among collectors and jewelry lovers alike. It has an opulent look but is an affordable price. Plus, it has a unique, curious history that many find intriguing.
However, many people aren't overly familiar with pyrite. If you're curious about its properties, coloring, history, and more, here's what you need to know.
Technically, pyrite isn't a gemstone. It's actually a sulfide mineral. In fact, it's the most common sulfide mineral on the planet, occurring so frequently that many experts consider it to be ubiquitous.
The most prominent physical properties of pyrite have to do with its sheen. Pyrite has a metallic glint, causing it to stand out from many other stones you may find alongside it.
As pyrite forms, it usually grows in cubes, octahedrons, or pentagonal dodecahedrons, the last of which is also known as a pyritohedron. Typically, the surface of the crystals features distinct striations, creating another way to identify pyrite in its raw form.
Pyrite is usually considered to be quite brittle. With a bit of pressure, thin pieces can break away, or flakes may be created.
Generally speaking, the pyrite stone is an earthy yellow. Thanks to the metallic luster, it ends up with a tone similar to brass. In some cases, pieces of pyrite may seem to have a grayish tint. However, this can be due to lighting conditions or the presence of other materials.
In some cases, pyrite gems do have visible black veins. Additionally, pyrite has a streak that is usually in the greenish-black range. However, the green aspect may be hard to see with the naked eye, causing it to look charcoal or near-black to some.
Now, there is such a thing as rainbow pyrite. Rainbow pyrite is a type of druzy that features pyrite crystals atop an underlying stone. With a high-quality rainbow pyrite specimen, the surface appears to exhibit a wide range of colors, including yellows, blues, greens, and pinks.
But the pyrite itself isn't actually a different hue in most cases. Instead, the various colors can come about in other ways.
In some cases, light refraction optical illusions are responsible. Small cracks within the druzy may reveal the underlying gemstone, altering the perceived color. At times, oxidation may change the hues along the surface, resulting in different shades. The same goes for the presence of other minerals, such as cobalt or nickel.
Regardless of the cause, rainbow pyrite is a genuine stone, and the different colors appearing on the gem are usually natural. However, titanium pyrite – which is sometimes marketed as rainbow pyrite – is not naturally occurring. Instead, that involves artificially coating pyrite with a thin layer of titanium, causing the gem to exhibit a wide range of colors.
The History of Pyrite
Pyrite has a fairly intriguing history. The name "pyrite" was actually derived from the Greek word for fire, mainly because you can strike pyrite against metal or certain hard materials to create sparks to ignite a fire.
Pyrite earned a somewhat notorious nickname – "Fool's Gold" – because inexperienced prospectors often mistook the mineral for genuine gold. However, pyrite and gold can occur together, and some pyrite deposits were known to contain enough gold to make mining them worthwhile.
When it comes to pyrite uses, since pyrite has spark-producing potential, pieces were once used in flintlock pistols and muskets. Additionally, it was once used as an ore for producing sulfur and sulfuric acid, though that isn't typically how it's used now unless it's a byproduct of gold-producing efforts.
Otherwise, pyrite is either considered ornamental or a novelty item today. It's been a popular item for jewelry since the 1800s, for example. Additionally, American "Old West" attractions occasionally feature "gold" panning activities where visitors can collect pyrite using traditional gold panning methods.
Where Is Pyrite Found?
As mentioned above, many experts consider pyrite to be a ubiquitous mineral. It's frequently found all over the world. However, the largest commercial producers today are China, Italy, Peru, and Russia.
Rainbow pyrite is found in very few locations. The most notable is in Ulyanovsk, Russia, along the banks of the Volga River. But a few specimens have been found elsewhere, just not regularly enough to consider those locations reliable sources.
Due to its lovely golden coloring, pyrite jewelry has been popular for more than one hundred years. However, demand for it commercially isn't incredibly high. As a result, most of the pieces aren't found in chain jewelry stores.
Instead, pyrite is a favorite among independent designers. It's a great stone for adding metallic shimmer and a hint of opulence, all while creating affordable pieces nearly anyone can enjoy.
You can find pyrite in a wide variety of forms in jewelry. Natural clusters are a popular approach for pendants and some rings, though you'll also find cabochons. If you're looking for a pyrite bracelet or necklace, cabochons or beads may be more common.
While it's rare, some designers do use faceted pyrite, particularly for rings and pendants. Naturally tumbled pyrite is another approach, allowing a pendant, drop earring, or similar piece to feel more organic.
As with most gems, the pyrite stone meaning tends to vary depending on the belief system involved. For some, pyrite is a protective gem that can shield a person from negative energies. For others, it's thought to attract abundance or wealth.
At times, the pyrite meaning is associated with intellectual pursuits and memory. Some think it can help a person recall information or assess situations more clearly, allowing them to navigate life with greater ease.
Since pyrite tends to be a brassy yellow, it's usually connected with the solar plexus chakra. However, some also associate it with the sacral chakra.
As for pyrite healing properties, some believe that pyrite can assist with infections, fevers, and lung disorders. At times, it's also thought to help with healthy circulation and endocrine function.
However, no gemstone – including pyrite – is proven to treat, manage, or prevent any medical conditions. While holding, wearing, or meditating on pyrite likely won't cause harm, it isn't a substitute for legitimate medical care. If you are experiencing a health issue, seeing your doctor is always best.
Stones Similar to Pyrite
Due to the somewhat unique nature of pyrite, there aren't many stones that resemble it strongly. When it comes to gemstones with similar properties, marcasite is usually the closest match. However, the coloring tends to feature more of a green tinge, and the metallic quality can lean more towards silver. Additionally, pyrite isn't as brittle as marcasite, and it also tarnishes far slower.
Chalcopyrite is another one of the stronger stand-ins. It tends to have a brassy yellow coloring, but it's more brittle than pyrite, making it less than ideal if you're looking for a jewelry stone substitute.
As for pyrite vs. gold, they can certainly look similar in their raw form. However, gold is far softer. Plus, while gold has a yellow streak and tends to be a silvery yellow, pyrite has a greenish-black streak and is brassy.
Bornite has a metallic luster, but it tends to look closer to bronze. Additionally, the tarnish tends to add green, blue, and purple sheens to the surface, making it stand apart.