We’ve heard the pirate stories – some pirate wrangles up a crew, finds a ship to use and sails out onto the high seas in search of buried treasure, only to struggle through hardship and toil to find that the treasure he sought all along wasn’t gold – at least not “real gold.” It was “fool’s gold,” also known as iron pyrite which is simply a crystalline substance of iron and sulfur.

Yes – iron and sulfur. Not exactly the most attractive of metals, but in this crystalline substance, they actually do bear a resemblance to the familiar yellow shine of gold.

Fool’s gold has an interesting history, as miners in the mid-1800’s would have to be sure to be on the lookout for iron pyrite. Many bad transactions have taken place because fool’s gold was substituted for real gold – hence the name “fool’s gold.” After this quick guide, however, you’ll have an understanding of both iron pyrite and gold, as well as the knowledge to differentiate between the two if need be.

What is Fool’s Gold?

As mentioned before, fool’s gold is iron pyrite. Iron pyrite is just an iron sulfide. It doesn’t quite have the same pure yellow hue that gold does, but its resemblance does strike a question or two for someone who’s ever seen iron pyrite. Small pieces of iron pyrite do strike a resemblance to gold nuggets, however, and this is how it became known as “fool’s gold.”

Iron pyrite is actually common, as opposed to gold, and is in fact the most common of the sulfide minerals. It can grow in larger masses than gold – even though gold nuggets have sometimes been known to grow quite large.

What about regular gold

Regular gold, or Au on the periodic table, is a much more basic element with a far greater worth. Unlike iron pyrite, gold isn’t a terribly common mineral, and as one of the precious metals (along with metals like silver and platinum), it is considered a rare commidity that can be traded at extravagant prices for the long term. The value of gold, its malleability, and its usefulness in a different range of fields, has lead to it becoming one of the most valuable metals you can get your hands on.

So how do I tell the difference?

They look similar, and iron pyrite nuggets can easily be mistaken for gold nuggets to the untrained observer. However, once you have a little training and information under your belt, you’ll be able to tell the differences rather easily.

First, gold is a strong, heavy metal, and highly malleable. Iron pyrite can be smashed by a hammer, while gold can only be pounded into different shapes by various hammers. Iron pyrite is also more brittle than gold, easier to take apart. Gold, if struck with a hammer, will flatten a bit, but it won’t break. Iron pyrite will easily break apart.

A quick way to determine whether you’re holding a gold nugget or a piece of iron pyrite is to press your fingernail into it. While iron pyrite is brittle, it’s not soft enough to make an indentation, while gold will be soft enough for it. Press hard to make sure.

Why does it matter?

Aside from the obvious, gold is a vastly more valuable metal than iron pyrite, and the difference is what has lead to the famous name of “fool’s gold.” As in, only a fool want want iron pyrite instead of gold.

Gold is used in some of our most valuable objects, like wedding rings, anniversary gifts, and even can be used in dentistry, such as in gold crowns or fillings.

If you ever come across gold and you know it’s gold, you know you can go to an online metal broker and sell your gold for a fair price. Online metal brokers are looking for the pure gold itself to be melted down and reused for industrial purposes. Needless to say, iron pyrite doesn’t exactly strike the same chord with online metal brokers.

Read our other articles to find out more about the online gold brokering process and how you can sell your gold for a fair price. Make sure you receive your insured mailing package, which is one of the most important steps in the entire process – that way you can send your gold to be appraised and offered upon without fearing for its security.

With a little bit of research and an open mind, you can be on your way to selling gold online in a hurry. To test out the process, start with a little gold, and work your way up from there – just don’t start out with fool’s gold.