WHAT EXACTLY IS “FOOLS GOLD?”
IS FOOLS GOLD REAL GOLD, OR FAKE GOLD?
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Yes ‘fool’s gold’ is real gold.
Run out and buy tons of it.
You know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking that if you could just walk into any nature store and buy a box of ‘real gold‘ for $6.00… there’d be none left. Sold out. End of story.
But the funny thing is, if you did buy some ‘fool’s gold‘, you may still be buying ‘real gold‘.
Let’s find out how…
Fool’s gold is actually a mineral called ‘pyrite’.
Pyrite is otherwise known as ‘iron sulfide‘. It’s a combination of 44.6% iron and 53.4% sulfur. Pyrite is greek for ‘fire’. Why fire? Because when you strike pyrite with a steel flint, it’ll spark like crazy.
Let the fireworks begin…
Early fireworks and firearms used pyrite for its explosive visuals and big bangs. During the 1848 California gold rush, lots of fools were born. Miners with get-rich-quick schemes were in for embarrassing failures and quickly learned that fool’s gold was hopelessly and totally worthless. Little did the miners know that pyrite is normally found around deposits of copper and gold. If they had only kept digging, they really could have struck it rich.
But the brassy, gold, glitter got the best of them. A quick test could have confirmed pyrite as a cheap impostor.
If they would have rubbed the hard stone into the rock, it would have crumbled and dissolved into a greenish-black powder.
Funny that fool’s gold can turn into a powder, you wouldn’t think so because it’s so hard. It’s hard, but very brittle at the same time. The poor cleavage lines make it almost impossible to work with it. That’s why common uses for it are none other than car batteries, because pyrite produced sulfur dioxide.
Kind of a long ways away from the “oohs and aahs” of pretty little fireworks.
Pyrite’s metallic luster
Pyrite has a luster, almost like a dull gold, but it loses most of its sparkle the second it hits air.
Fool’s gold has been mined all over the World in exotic places like Siberia, Russia and South Africa, but also it’s been mined in our own backyards, like Canada, South Dakota and of course, California (where lots of fools were born).
On the MOHS scale (a scale that tests the hardness of minerals) pyrite or fools gold is rated a 6 – 6.5. As a comparison, let’s look at the hardness of other common things:
- Plastic – 1
- Salt – 2-3
- Fingernail – 2.5
- Gold and Silver 2.5 – 3
- Copper Coin – 3
- Platinum – 4 – 4.5
- Glass – 6-7
Crazy that pyrite is even harder than platinum.
Which I’m sure is a surprise to many people.
So if it’s that hard, then why isn’t fools gold used in jewelry today? It’s a good question, but when you think about how brittle pyrite is, you’ll see that jewelry doesn’t make the cut. The cleavage lines and fracture points makes it so fragile that you can’t set it without crushing it into pieces. Sad, but true!
So you see…
Fool’s gold shouldn’t really fool anyone.
It’s about as worthless as a Pet Rock.
You can still get lucky with it though, because pyrite may still contain small percentages of ‘real gold‘. Does that make you want to run out and stock up? Maybe…?
We all know the phrase; all that glitters is not gold.
But it’s still fun looking. :)
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Pyrite is occasionally used in jewelry