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Pyrite is a magnificent brass-coloured mineral which embodies the warm and glinting beauty of fire. Its fiery qualities tend to lay latent, but will erupt to life as shimmering sparks when two Pyrite stones are rubbed together or struck against each other. This scintillating trait together with its warm colour make this a gem which exudes solar energy and vitality (even the genesis of its name echoes these characteristics as it comes from the ancient Greek Pyr or Pyros, meaning fire). This beautiful crystal has long been used as a protective talisman or amulet: it acts as a shield against negative forces by drawing unique energy from Mother Earth and fire.
What is Pyrite?
This gorgeous stone is an iron disulfide: it contains sulphur and iron. It is actually quite common in many parts of the world and comes in a variety of geological formations of the most varied shapes and sizes. It can be found as an agglomerate, a stalactite, in grainy, mammilary or nodular form, or even as fascinating well-crystallized examples of cubes, pyriohedrons and octahedrons. Multiple Pyrite crystals are also relatively common, forming spectacular compositions such as penetration twins or iron cross twins (two dodecahedrons which together form a distinctive cross-like shape). Less common are exquisite flat, disc-like formations known as ‘sun dollars’ or ‘miners dollars’.
Its genesis can take place in nearly any type of rock, but it is more frequently found in volcanic or magmatic sediments. Pyrite crystals are often found alongside Fluorite and Calcite: together the three form the so called ‘Mental (or Creative) Trinity’, known to have a positive influence on the first three chakras.
Characteristics of Pyrite
Pyrite is a hard gem (measuring 6 – 6.5 on the Mohs scale), but it is also rather fragile and has to be handled delicately, particularly when being cut or polished: it can easily chip or crack if not treated with care, and is therefore not commonly used in jewellery. An experienced and skilful cutter, however, will be able to shape a Pyrite gemstone into a gorgeous and unique piece of jewellery for special occasions.
This beautiful stone is characterised by a pale brass-tinted hue, a bright metallic lustre and an opaque transparency. Ever since the Middle Ages, it has also been known as ‘fool’s gold’ as, because of its resplendent and gleaming appearance, an untrained eye could easily mistake it for the more valuable metal.
However, the structure and chemical composition of Pyrite, a mineral, is completely different to that of gold, a metal. Pyrite is often extracted from iron deposits and, due to its ferrous composition, it easily oxidizes releasing sulphuric acid. Furthermore, this mineral is a ‘pseudomorph’, which means that its chemical composition and internal structure may change with the result of having a different mineral bearing the same appearance of the original mineral (the appearance and dimensions remain unchanged despite the substitution of one mineral for another): such is the case of Limonite bearing resemblance to Pyrite.
As mentioned above, Pyrite has often (especially in the past) been mistaken for gold. There are however a few features of the two which will help us distinguish one from the other with a certain degree of certainty:
- Lustre: as gold is a metal it is opaque, with the occasional reddish undertones or with paler and brighter hues which are due to silver contaminations. Pyrite on the other hand is a mineral and is therefore lustrous with pale, luminous golden hues. Its surface is so reflective that it can even be used as a mirror, as discovered by the Native Americans.
- Contaminations: as gold is a metal, it has a pure structure, while Pyrite is a mineral and is thus more prone to contaminations: when holding a Pyrite specimen in your hands you will easily come across silvery striations which are relatively common in minerals. In stones which have cracked and split open, this characteristic is more visible as the difference in colour between the different bands is sharper and more evident on the cracked surface.
- Glare: Pyrite will reveal its true nature by displaying a light blue, greenish or purplish glare or glint due to minute copper contaminations within the mineral.
- Composition: as Pyrite is a mineral, it may easily break or crack when struck with a certain force, while gold, a more malleable and pliable material, will not. As well as producing sparks, Pyrite will also release a sulphuric smell, which is typical of all sulphuric rocks, thus revealing its true nature.
Where can Pyrite be found?
This dazzling gem is found in several regions across the world. However, the largest and most prolific deposits are found in Europe: in Spain (Rio Tinto), in Germany (Rammelsberg and Meggen), in Norway (Sulitelma) and in Sweden (Falun).
Italy, too, had several noteworthy deposits in Tuscany, such as those in Niccioleta, Gavorrano and Ravi, on the ‘Colline Metallifere’ (= metalliferous hills) in the province of Grosseto, these however are no longer productive. In the Piedmont region, there were once deposits producing vast quantities of iron and Pyrite. Nowadays however, most extraction takes place on the Isle of Elba, where this gem, among many others, is widespread.
Properties of Pyrite
Pyrite is a gorgeous gem which finds its genesis in the bowels of the earth: found in volcanic and magmatic rocks, it encapsulates all of the blazing energy of fire. This is a precious stone which represents ideals of wellbeing and good health. It can be of support during convalescence as its influence is rapid and effective, and it can even help expose latent health issues therefore allowing for a diagnosis and the identification of a possible cure. At the same time, it functions as a shield against illnesses caused by pollution, helping alleviate the symptoms of asthma and bronchitis.
Thus, this stone has the power to strengthen the physique and oxygenate the blood, improving circulation, digestion, the development of intelligence and certain functions of the brain, such as concentration and awareness. Pyrite encourages whoever wears it to adopt a positive attitude in life, overcome obstacles and accept changes with composure and serenity. When making big decisions, it can help to be more clear-headed and welcome the resulting changes.
Thanks to its intrinsic energy, it is an ideal stone for creative people and for those who find inspiration in the harmony and symmetry found in nature and in the universe, and are keen on science, art, mathematics and architecture.
Pyrite provides reliable support at times of great stress. Furthermore, worn at work it can be an invaluable aid when aiming to develop leadership abilities or climbing the career ladder.
This glistening precious stone is a positive energy crystal and is therefore extremely useful when recovering from depression. It helps identify the root causes of depressive states, empowering the subject in question to rake action, react and find solutions.
As this stone is closely linked to the sun’s energy and vitality, it is also closely connected to the Third Chakra, Manipura, that of the solar plexus and of warmth, which acts as our energy centre influencing all of our relationships. When Manipura is balanced, it gives us strength to assimilate energy: this can be on a physical level (it enables us, for example, to better absorb the nutrients contained in the food we eat) or also on a psychic level (for instance, it can provide us with the necessary strength to deal with difficult or stressful challenges). If, however, Manipura is out of balance, we will find relationships with others and with the rest of the world challenging and even difficult. This may, in turn, make us more fearful or likely to be subjected to the will of others.
A golden Pyrite gem also balances the Second Chakra, Svadhishtana, found around the navel. This is the centre of our body’s Life Force and controls the flow of energy between mind and body, essential for living in harmony with ourselves and with others. An out-of-balance Svadhishana can lead to depression, to the loss of motivation and of energy, and also to feeling confused, repressed and frustrated.
On a more spiritual level, this marvelous gem encourages us to draw on the higher frequencies of the universe to develop a superior connection with our aura.
The pale, golden colour of Pyrite is traditionally linked to the regality of the sun and reflects the energy of gold, beckoning success, happiness, enthusiasm and power.
Gleaming Pyrite not only reflects the world around it (acting as a mirror), but it also helps us reflect on what is around us, revealing what is normally hidden and encouraging a process of self disclosure. It helps reveal the self, not as it merely appears or is perceived, but as it actually is (its essence): a Pyrite gem will reveal objective truths.
This warm, glowing crystal makes an ideal protective talisman for anyone working in direct contact with fire (such as bakers, firemen, goldsmiths).
According to Feng Shui philosophy, Pyrite crystals draw on Earth’s energy, the same energy which stimulates balance, harmony, patience and honesty. This is the energy which originates from the ground upon which we live, our homes, mountains, valleys, shores and vast plains. A shiny Pyrite stone is able to instantly enliven any space as it freely shares its energy. In Feng Shui, Pyrite is used to attract the energy of wealth an abundance (a cluster shape is ideal when using it as a money cure for the home, while a cube is recommended for the workplace). It is also used to protect any space used as a place of rest, where we like to feel safe, in control and protected as it rids of negative energies, emanating warmth, brightness and enthusiasm.
A Pyrite gem can be utilised during meditation: holding a gem in each hand will help instantly revive and rebalance energies. Given its ferrous nature, it is recommended not to place Pyrite in direct contact with water as it could oxidize (if a gem gets wet, it must be carefully dried, making sure all moisture is removed by laying it in direct sunlight for a few minutes). The sun’s rays will also recharge the gem’s energy. Be warned, worn at nighttime, Pyrite’s vibrant energy may get in the way of relaxation and interrupt sleep.
Pyrite around the world and across history
This unique mineral was known to the Incas in Peru and the Aztecs in Mexico. It was often used to make mirrors: one side of the crystal block would be smoothed and polished becoming the reflective surface, while the other would be left rough and convex and symbolic designs would be carved on it.
Native Americans considered this a powerful stone which magic powers and it was often used by shamans to make medicine and in divination ceremonies.