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Fools Gold (Pyrite)

Updated on April 10, 2011

What is Fools Gold?

Fool's Gold is a nickname given to the mineral iron pyrite. Fool's gold is not actually "real gold" -- hence the name fools in it. This name was given to iron pyrite because miners would mistaken it for real gold during historical times, when in fact, it was just a cheap mineral. Fool's gold is basically worthless in comparison to real gold. Many miners would think they would become rich when they found fool's gold during gold rushes. The reason why iron pyrite is mistaken for real gold is due to its appearance. It has a metallic gold shiny luster to it, which can easily fool a less than knowledgeable person. However, upon close inspection, fool's gold will have a pale brassy like color in a crystal type form. And it will give off a greenish black streak. Real gold will not have these attributes. If you have real gold in your hands, it will have a metallic yellow color in its appearance. Real gold is usually found in nuggets most of the time.

Today, fool's gold can be bought nearly anywhere. If you go to an amusement park, you will likely found fool's gold in a store somewhere. Since fool's gold is basically worthless, it is more of a souvenir. It's something that may not have much value, but is nice to have as a keep sake item. Many rock collectors or young children may have interest in it. Fool's gold may only cost a few bucks for large chunks of it. Real gold will cost thousands of dollars! It would take 1,000,000,000 chunks of fool's gold to equal one gold bar! Okay, that's not the real number, but you get the idea...It will take a lot!

Fool's Gold
Fool's Gold

Where is fools gold found (iron pyrite) found?

Iron pyrite can be found in numerous places on earth. It is a very common mineral, and is not scarce like real gold is. Many times, iron pyrite is found in different types of rock such as metamorphic rock or sedimentary. Sometimes iron pyrite is known to be in quartz crystals. Quartz is one of the most abundant commonly found minerals on Earth's crust -- which explains why iron pyrite is found so easily. On top of that, iron pyrite is found in coal beds, which is where the mineral got its nickname fool's gold.

Of course, in today's society, you can easily purchase fool's gold from ebay, amazon, or other places online. However, if your ever traveling, you never know what you might find. Just make sure you don't get to excited when you see a shiny lustrous little rock that resembles gold. It may be be fool's gold! On the other hand, it may be real gold and you become rich!

How to tell if you have fool's gold or real gold

There are many ways to spot whether or not you have real or fake gold. Once you can understand these, you will not longer be a fool to gold!

Most common ways to tell if you have fool's gold or not:

(1) Check the smell of the rock in question. If it has a bad smell like rotten eggs, then it very well may be fool's gold. While fool's gold has some iron in it, it's actually composed of more sulfur. During the inspection of the rock, if you smell a distinct like smell, then you may possibly have fake gold.

(2) If it creates a spark then it may be fool's gold. Real gold is significantly softer. Strike the iron pyrite (fool's gold) against steel in order to evaluate on whether or not it is fake or real.

(3) If the gold strongly glitters in the sunlight, then there's a strong chance it is fool's gold. (Over 90% chance)

(4) Get a magnet. If the gold in question is attracted to it, then it is fool's gold. Real gold will not do anything when placed next to a magnet.

(5) Real gold has a golden-like streak to it, while fool's gold will be greenish black.


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