What is Fool’s Gold?

What is Fool’s Gold?

Almost everyone who has been panning for Gold or hunting for minerals has found Fool’s Gold. As you inspect the contents of your pan, you may come across tiny, glittering grains that appear to be made of Gold.

At this point, you may feel immense excitement and satisfaction, believing you have stumbled upon a valuable discovery. When you examine it more closely, it turns out that it can easily be crushed by, for example, the tip of a knife (Gold does not crush, it flattens out), so it is not Gold ☹️

What is Fool’s gold meaning?

In most cases, this “Gold” is Pyrite (sulfur silica), a brass-yellow, metallic mineral containing iron and sulfur and is a common sulfide mineral on earth. Fool’s Gold is one of the nicknames given to Pyrite. In German, there is a similar expression called “Katzen Gold“; in French, it is called “l’or des fous“. 

Pyrit stone also known as Fool's Gold


Gold Nugget


Chalcopyrite is Fool's Gold


Pyrite, Chalcopyrite and Mica are Fool’s Gold Minerals.

When we see it with the naked eye, it can (as its name suggests) look like little nuggets of Gold. Thus, Fool’s Gold has very different characteristics from Gold’s. The name “Pyrite” comes from the Greek word for fire (pyr) because it can strike sparks against metal or stone.

How do I know if it’s Gold or Fool’s Gold?

A couple of other minerals can also, under the right conditions, be confusingly similar to Gold. It’s Chalcopyrite and Mica. Mica that quickly falls apart can make it look like your Gold pan is full of small gold nuggets.

Gold Pan with Fool's Gold

What is the Difference Between Gold and Pyrite

With some practice, you can use some simple tests to see the difference between Pyrite and Gold.

A little warning, though! Many gold nuggets have a collector’s value that is usually higher than the gold value. If you damage your Gold nugget with various tests, it can lower the value of your nugget.

Read more about : Metal Detecting for Gold and Magnet Fishing.

The density of Gold❗

The first thing that will help you identify if it is Gold is its density. Gold is three times denser than Pyrite, 5 for Pyrite against 19.3 for Gold. Typically, Gold stays last in your pan

Pyrite has a much lower density, slightly less dense than black sand. So the Pyrite should wash out with the rest of the gravel, but thin gold flakes can also wash out quickly, so be careful.

Visual differences ❗

Pyrite and Gold are yellow, but Gold is less coppery than Pyrite. Also, Gold does not form cube-shaped crystals, as Pyrite often does. 

Most of the Gold nuggets encountered in the field are flakes or lumpy nuggets with rounded edges. It is possible to find gold flakes with sharp edges indicating a nearby source, but this is a rare scenario.

Gold Streak Test❗

Gold will leave a yellow-Gold streak if rubbed against a porcelain or white ceramic piece. Do the same with Pyrite, and it will leave a dark, greenish-black line.

Break and Moldability ❗

With a knife blade, a test is relatively easy to perform. Place your samples on a flat bottom (a pan, for example). Exert pressure with your knife on your pieces; Gold deforms under pressure, and Pyrite will resist and break..

Gold Ranking on Mohs Scale❗

On the Mohs scale, which rates the hardness of minerals, Gold has a rating of 2.5 to 3Pyrite is harder and is between 6 and 6.5 on the scale. 

The curious thing is that Pyrite can contain Gold, just like silver. However, it is only at such a low concentration that it can only be separated under special technical conditions.

Video about Fool's Gold

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