AskDefine | Define pyrites

Dictionary Definition

pyrites n : any of various metallic-looking sulfides (of which pyrite is the commonest)

User Contributed Dictionary



pyrites p
  1. Plural of pyrite

Extensive Definition

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. Marcasite/pyrite is probably the most famous polymorph pair next to the diamond/graphite pair. Appearance is slightly more silver.
Marcasite is metastable relative to pyrite and will slowly be changed to pyrite if heated or given enough time. Marcasite is relatively rare, but may be locally abundant in some types of ore deposits, such as Mississippi Valley-type Pb-Zn deposits. Marcasite appears to form only from aqueous solutions.
Pyrite is often used in jewellery such as necklaces and bracelets, but although the two are similar, marcasite cannot be used in jewellery as it tends to crumble into powder. Adding to the confusion between marcasite and pyrite is the use of the word marcasite as a jewellery trade name. The term is applied to small polished and faceted stones that are inlaid in sterling silver, but even though they are called marcasite, they actually contain pyrite.

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-.


  • American Geological Institute, 2003, Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms, 2nd ed., Springer, New York, ISBN 978-3540012719
  • Mineral galleries

External links

pyrites in Catalan: Pirita
pyrites in Czech: Pyrit
pyrites in Danish: Pyrit
pyrites in German: Pyrit
pyrites in Estonian: Püriit
pyrites in Spanish: Pirita
pyrites in Esperanto: Pirito
pyrites in Basque: Pirita
pyrites in French: Pyrite
pyrites in Galician: Pirita
pyrites in Italian: Pirite
pyrites in Hebrew: פיריט
pyrites in Lithuanian: Piritas
pyrites in Hungarian: Pirit
pyrites in Dutch: Pyriet
pyrites in Japanese: 黄鉄鉱
pyrites in Norwegian: Svovelkis
pyrites in Norwegian Nynorsk: Svovelkis
pyrites in Polish: Piryt
pyrites in Portuguese: Pirita
pyrites in Romanian: Pirită
pyrites in Russian: Пирит
pyrites in Sicilian: Petra fucali
pyrites in Slovak: Pyrit
pyrites in Slovenian: Pirit
pyrites in Finnish: Rikkikiisu
pyrites in Swedish: Pyrit
pyrites in Turkish: Pirit
pyrites in Ukrainian: Пірит
pyrites in Chinese: 黄铁矿
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