Jump to: navigation, search
A mass of intergrown, striated pyrite crystals
CategorySulfide mineral
Chemical formulairon disulfide (FeS2)
ColorPale brass yellow, dull gold
Crystal habitCubic, faces may be striated, but also frequently octahedral and pyritohedron. Often inter-grown, massive, radiated, granular, globular and stalactitic.
Crystal systemIsometric; bar 3 2/m
TwinningPenetration twinning
FractureVery uneven, sometimes conchoidal
Mohs Scale hardness6–6.8
LusterMetallic, glistening
Refractive indexOpaque
StreakGreenish-black to brownish-black; smells of sulfur
Specific gravity4.95–5.10
Fusibility2.5–3 to a magnetic globule
Solubilityinsoluble in water
Other Characteristicsparamagnetic

The mineral pyrite, or iron pyrite, is an iron sulfide with the formula FeS2. This mineral's metallic luster and pale-to-normal, brass-yellow hue have earned it the nickname fool's gold due to its resemblance to gold. Pyrite is the most common of the sulfide minerals. The name pyrite is derived from the Greek πυρίτης (puritēs), “of fire” or "in fire”, from πύρ (pur), “fire”. This name is likely due to the sparks that result when pyrite is struck against steel or flint. This property made pyrite popular for use in early firearms such as the wheellock.


This mineral occurs as isometric crystals that usually appear as cubes. The cube faces may be striated (parallel lines on crystal surface or cleavage face) as a result of alternation of the cube and pyritohedron faces. Pyrite also frequently occurs as octahedral crystals and as pyritohedra (a dodecahedron with pentagonal faces). It has a slightly uneven and conchoidal fracture, a hardness of 6–6.5, and a specific gravity of 4.95–5.10.[1] It is brittle and can be identified in the field by the distinctive odor released when samples are pulverized.

Pyrite is usually found associated with other sulfides or oxides in quartz veins, sedimentary rock, and metamorphic rock, as well as in coal beds, and as a replacement mineral in fossils. Despite being nicknamed fool's gold, small quantities of gold are sometimes found associated with pyrite. Gold and arsenic occur as a coupled substitution in the pyrite structure. In the Carlin, Nevada gold deposit, arsenian pyrite contains up to 0.37 wt% gold.[4] Auriferous pyrite is a valuable ore of gold.

Weathering and release of sulfate

Pyrite exposed to the atmosphere during mining and excavation reacts with oxygen and water to form sulfate, resulting in acid mine drainage. This acidity results from the action of Acidithiobacillus bacteria, which generate their energy by oxidizing ferrous iron (Fe2+) to ferric iron (Fe3+) using oxygen. The ferric iron in turn attacks the pyrite to produce ferrous iron and sulfate. The ferrous iron is then available for oxidation by the bacterium; this cycle continues until the pyrite is depleted.


Pyrite is used commercially for the production of sulfur dioxide, for use in such applications as the paper industry, and in the manufacture of sulfuric acid, although such applications are declining in importance.

Formal oxidation states for pyrite, marcasite, and arsenopyrite

From the perspective of classical inorganic chemistry, which assigns formal oxidation states to each atom, pyrite is probably best described as Fe2+S22-. This formalism recognizes that the sulfur atoms in pyrite occur in pairs with clear S-S bonds. These persulfide units can be viewed as derived from hydrogen persulfide, H2S2. Thus pyrite would be more descriptively called iron persulfide, not iron disulfide. In contrast, molybdenite, MoS2, features isolated sulfide (S2-) centers. Consequently, the oxidation state of molybdenum is Mo4+. The mineral arsenopyrite has the formula FeAsS. Whereas pyrite has S2 subunits, arsenopyrite has AsS units, formally derived from deprotonation of H2AsSH. Analysis of classical oxidation states would recommend the description of arsenopyrite as Fe3+AsS3-.[5]


Bravoite is a nickel-cobalt bearing variety of pyrite, with >50% substitution of Ni2+ for Fe2+ within pyrite. Bravoite is not a formally recognised mineral, and is named after Peruvian scientist Jose J. Bravo (1874-1928).[6]

Cattierite (CoS2) and Vaesite (NiS2) are similar in their structure and belong also to the pyrite group.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hurlbut, Cornelius S.; Klein, Cornelis, 1985, Manual of Mineralogy, 20th ed., John Wiley and Sons, New York, p 285-286, ISBN 0-471-80580-7
  2. Webmineral
  3. Pyrite on
  4. MICHAEL E. FLEETl AND A. HAMID MUMIN, Gold-bearing arsenian pyrite and marcasite and arsenopyrite from Carlin Trend gold deposits and laboratory synthesis, American Mineralogist, Volume 82, pages 182-193, 1997
  5. Vaughan, D. J.; Craig, J. R. “Mineral Chemistry of Metal Sulfides" Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 1978. ISBN 0521214890.
  6. Mindat - bravoite
  • American Geological Institute, 2003, Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms, 2nd ed., Springer, New York, ISBN 978-3540012719
  • Mineral galleries

External links

bs:Pirit (mineral) ca:Pirita cs:Pyrit da:Pyrit de:Pyrit et:Püriit eo:Pirito eu:Pirita fa:پیریت gl:Pirita it:Pirite he:פיריט lt:Piritas hu:Pirit nl:Pyriet no:Svovelkis nn:Svovelkis scn:Petra fucali sk:Pyrit sl:Pirit fi:Rikkikiisu sv:Pyrit uk:Пірит