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Real vs. Fake Pyrite: Focus on These 7 Differences

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Pyrite is believed to be quite a common mineral, however, pyrite fakes can be sometimes spotted. Natural pyrite is usually known as fool’s gold, as it resembles gold because of its bright yellow color and a metallic sheen. But sometimes, even the pyrite can be imitated.

Pyrite is rarely faked. It’s quite a common mineral and can be safely purchased via online marketing platforms. Fake pyrite can be imitated by dyed epoxy or glue. Fake pyrite can be represented by sparkling specs of copper in composite turquoise or lapis lazuli or dyed quartz geodes.

Can you believe that there are even molds for crystals druses that can be purchased on the Internet? If molds exist, we should be prepared to spot numerous possible fakes of different minerals. Even pyrite is at gunpoint. We are here to shed a light on some modern pyrite fakes.

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The Main Differences Between Real and Fake Pyrite
The Main Differences Between Real and Fake Pyrite

How To Tell if Pyrite is Real?

Real pyrite can impress everybody with its perfect form of crystals. Natural pyrite crystals in the shape of cubes, octahedrons, or pyritohedron are usually perceived by people as something artificial.

Otherwise, how mathematically symmetrical perfect crystals can be created. But these forms are typical for natural pyrite. Keep going and explore some other properties you will be surprised by.

Real pyrite occurs in the form of cubes or multifaceted crystals. It is cold by touch, has striations on the facets, is hard enough, and contains 46.67 percent of iron by weight. The hardness is 6 – 6.5 on the Mohs scale, which is greater than that of glass. Pyrite specific gravity is high – 4.9-5.2 g/cm3.

Pyrite is an iron sulfide (FeS2) containing 46.67 percent of iron and 53.33 percent of sulfur by weight.

It occurs in a brass-yellow color, which sometimes can tarnish to dull brass. The other impressive characteristic of pyrite is its extraterrestrial form of crystals: cubes, pyritohedron, and octahedrons and their combinations.

Real pyrite also occurs in massive, radiating, drusy, fibrous aggregates. Or in spectacular disk-shaped mineral concretions sometimes called pyrite “suns” or “miners’ dollars”  found in Illinois. Pyrite crystals are frequently striated. 

Pyrite minerals can be formed in a variety of conditions. For instance, it can be created by magmatic (molten rock) segregation or by hydrothermal solutions.

Real pyrite can be found as an accessory mineral in igneous rocks, in vein deposits in association with quartz and other sulfide minerals like hematite, chalcopyrite, sphalerite, and in sedimentary rocks, such as shale, coal, and limestone.

How Does Raw Pyrite Look Like?

Raw pyrite looks ideal. At first glance, pyrite resembles gold, which makes the heart of a gem hunter go faster. After that, isometric cubic crystals with striations can be spotted.

Sometimes raw pyrite looks dull and tarnished if it was exposed to weathering for a long time. Just dig deeper, and you will find your perfect one!

Raw pyrite occurs in many forms. Raw pyrite can be found in massive, radiating, drusy, fibrous forms as well perfectly even formed crystals. Even raw pyrite crystals are surprisingly symmetrical. Isometric crystals of raw pyrite occur in the form of cubes, pyritohedron, and octahedrons.

For many years Spain was the largest producer of pyrite. The mines in Navajun, La Rioja, Spain produce some of the biggest and most intricate pyrite clusters available.

They are highly aesthetic, sharp, lustrous, and nearly perfect. Sometimes they are too perfect to be natural and look like a skillful craftsman carved mathematically correct cubes, but they are created by nature. 

Today Italy and China are the world’s largest producers of pyrite, followed by Russia and Peru. Spain pyrites are the most desirable specimens by mineral collectors.

How to Identify Real Pyrite?

Real pyrite has a lot of characteristics that let you distinguish it from other minerals.

Real pyrite can be identified by the isomorphic form of crystals (cubes mostly) and by striations on the facets. Because of high specific gravity, real pyrite feels very hard and cold when placed into a hand. It’s absolutely opaque and has black with a slightly green tinge streak.

  1. The color of real pyrite is brass-yellow.
  2. The luster is metallic.
  3. Pyrite is opaque.
  4. Crystals are isometric with cubic forms mostly.
  5. Facets have striations.
  6. It is heavy.
  7. It is cold on the touch
  8. The streak is greenish-black.

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How to Spot Fake Pyrite?

Fake pyrite can be spotted easily, as real pyrite minerals have a lot of unique properties described in the previous passage. Let us add you some information about pyrite fakes spotted, and you will be an expert in differentiating real and fake pyrite.

Fake pyrite made of sparkly silver or gold glue or other kinds of epoxy will be warm to the touch and will glow under UV light. Fake pyrite made of chips of copper incorporated into some other minerals will look like flakes, unlike real pyrite crystals, which are isometric.

The first type of pyrite fake is sparkling silver or golden glue. It usually has very small nodules, nobs, and chunks; and sometimes sparkles rainbow colors or does not sparkle much at all, while real pyrite has a metallic sheen.

Also, the sparkling glue is much lighter than real pyrite. The other characteristic is that glue usually glows under UV light, while real pyrite is absolutely inert.

Another kind of fake pyrite can be spotted in stabilized turquoise or lapis lazuli. These two gemstones usually have pyrite inclusions or veins in natural formations.

Here in fakes, pyrite is substituted by copper or other metallic chips. Copper chips admixed with epoxy are used to field cavities in turquoise or lapis lazuli imitations. 

Unlike real pyrite, copper chips are not isometric and lack any well-formed facets typical for real pyrite. Also, the hardness of cooper (2.5-3 on the Mohs scale) ) is much lower than that of real pyrite (6 -6.5).

The third fake spotted is pyrite druses and jewelry (rings, pendants, and earrings) made with the use of molds and epoxy.

The material can vary; however, epoxy will always glow under UV light and will be warm to the touch. Also, this type of pyrite fakes can be spotted after the hardness test. They are much softer than real pyrite.

Sometimes quartz geodes can be dyed with golden pigment and sold as pyrite. It’s completely fake. If you don’t want to damage the sample, please take a closer look at the crystal form.

Quartz crystals are elongated and have a typical crystal form with an elongated prism and pyramid on the top, while natural pyrite has isometric crystals in the form of cubes.

Also, the golden pigment can be easily worn away, and you will see the white colors of natural quartz.

The last pyrite fake spotted is not fake at all, but it is composed of two real minerals glued together. Pyrite crystals are glued to amethyst crystals in geode to resemble gold.

However, amethyst and pyrite association is not typical and cannot be found in nature. Please, see how amethyst geodes form. Zones of glue can be also easily spotted.

Real vs. Fake Pyrite: The Main Differences

Here is a table with the most vital characteristics, which will help you to differentiate real pyrite and fake.

Characteristic feature Real pyrite Fake pyrite
OpacityOpaqueOpaque and occasionally semi-translucent
Presence of striations on the facetsPresentAbsent
Form of occurrenceIsometric crystals: cubes, pyritohedron, and octahedrons and their combinationsGold-colored flakes of cooper. Massive, without any crystals distinguished.
UV lightInert to UV lightEpoxy and glues can glow under UV light
WeightRelatively heavy Very light
Touch testCold to the touchWarm to the touch
Hardness6 – 6.5 on the Mohs scale. Cannot be scratched by a knife and glassAll artificial materials (epoxy, resins, glues, plastics) and copper can be scratched both by a knife and glass.
The Main Differences between Real and Fake Pyrite

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Conclusion

Pyrite is a quite common iron sulfide mineral, so fakes are quite rare. But as you can see from everything said above, fakes exist. Here is the list of the most abundant fakes of pyrite:

  • sparkling silver or golden glue;
  • copper chips imitating pyrite in turquoise or lapis lazuli composite;
  • druses or jewelry (rings) made with the use of mold and epoxy;
  • dyed quartz geodes;
  • natural pyrite chunks glued together with amethyst.

Please, pay attention to the next 7 properties to spot pyrite fakes:

  1. Opacity. Real pyrite is always opaque.
  2. Presence of striations on the facets. Striations are often present on real pyrite facets and never on fakes.
  3. Form of occurrence. Real pyrite occurs in the cubic form mostly, while fakes can be massive or in the form of chips or glittering flakes.
  4. UV light. Real pyrite is inert to UV light, while fakes, which include glue or epoxy, will glow under UV light.
  5. Weight. Real pyrite is iron sulfide, so it is substantially heavy. Fakes are light.
  6. Touch test. Real pyrite will be cold to the touch. A fake one will be warm.
  7. Hardness. Fake pyrite cannot reach natural pyrite’s hardness.

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