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How to tell the difference between Gold and Pyrite?

One of the most precious mineral on earth is Gold and wait, there's a fool's gold mineral.

But how to tell the difference?

(left) Specks of gold on a quartz vein (right) pyrite and chalcopyrite on a mock pile of quartz vein. Photo from our fieldwork in Paracale, Camarines Norte

1. The variation in color of a mineral when rotated or tilted at different angles. Pyrite will shine but its edges will look sharp while gold shines at any angle.

2. Hardness. Resistance to scratch.

Pyrite has a hardness of 6-6.5 while gold is of 2.5-3

3. Streak color. Streak color of mineral in powder form.

Gold has a streak of gold yellow when scratched to a streak plate while pyrite has a streak of greenish black to black.

(left) Gold streak color is yellow while (right) Pyrite's streak color is greenish black. Photo from

4. Tenacity. Resistance to break, crush, bend.

Gold is malleable and ductile which means that you can flattened and stretched it out without breaking the substance. While Pyrite is brittle, where when you hammered it, the substance breaks into powder form.

5. Specific gravity. Ratio of density of a substance to the density of a reference substance.

Gold is one of the heaviest minerals. When pure, it has a specific gravity of 19.3. Due to its weight, it can be panned because the Gold sinks to the bottom. In addition, it can be easily separated from other substances due to the weight differences. While Pyrite is lighter with 4.9 to 5.2 specific gravity.

Photo of panned Gold bits in Paracale, Camarines Norte

That's all. Let us know if you have more tips on how to tell the difference between Gold and Pyrite.


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