Pyrite is derived from the Greek PUR and LITHOS meaning Fire and Stone or “the stone which strikes fire.”

Pyrite or Iron Pyrite is composed of iron sulfide, sometimes containing small amounts of cobalt, nickel, silver and gold. Pyrite is considered the most common form of sulfide minerals.

Pyrite forms in almost all types of environments: sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rock types. However, Pyrite rarely forms in fresh-water environments.

Pyrites are also known as Fool’s Gold. This is because its resemblance to gold is so close that many people are fooled including the Queen of England. For this was how the expression of "fool’s gold” got started.

Though Pyrite's metallic luster and pale brass-yellow hue is very similar in appearance to gold, there are some identifiers to distinguish them.

Pyrite is lighter than gold and has a brass-like color. Pyrite is hard and brittle while gold is soft and malleable. In terms of hardness on the Mohs scale, Pyrite is 6 to 6.5 which makes it hard to be scratched with a steel penknife. Gold is 2.5 and you can actually scratch it with your fingernail.

Pyrite has a highly crystal ordered structure whereas gold is an amorphous chunk. Pyrite crystals are often striated. When rubbed on an unglazed white porcelain plate, pyrite will leave a black streak whereas gold leaves a golden streak.

Pyrite has been used since the Stone Age and the ancient civilization created ritual magical objects and jewelry using Pyrite.

Marcasite is also referred to as Pyrite, nonetheless, there are differences between pyrite and Marcasite: one being that marcasite is the polymorph of Pyrite, and is more brittle and breakable that it is not used as a gemstone. Marcasite is lighter in color than Pyrite. Marcasite upon contact with moisture in the air may produce sulphuric acid due to instability of its chemical structure. Marcasite is a different mineral species, although it has the same chemical formula as Pyrite. Worthy of note is the fact that some Pyrite samples are labeled as Marcasite, and some Marcasite samples as Pyrite.

Other minerals that are similar to Pyrite include:

- Chalcopyrite which has a hardness that ranges from 3.5 to 4 whereas Pyrite has a hardness of 6 to 6.5. Chalcopyrite has a more intense yellow color than Pyrite.

- Cobaltite has a hardness of 5.5 on Mohs scale and lacks the yellow color of Pyrite.

- Pyrrhotite has a hardness that ranges from 3.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs scale. It has a darker color and different crystal structure.

Varieties of Pyrite include:

- Rainbow Pyrite has a lustrous rainbow-like play of color caused by differential refraction of light waves. This iridescence is caused by oxidation.

- Cathedral Pyrite displays large gothic-like markings and crystals.

- Bravoite Pyrite is a nickel-cobalt bearing pyrite.

- Pyrite Dollar (also known as Pyrite Sun) is a flat disc of radiating Pyrite or Marcasite.

- Pyrite Cube is a large, undistorted, cubic shaped Pyrite.

- Pyritohedron is an isometric closed crystal form of 12 faces, each an irregular pentagon.
- Fossil Pyrite: this is when Pyrite replaces shells and plants and create beautiful fossils made up of Pyrite. For example, Fossil Pyrite Ammonite.

- Auriferous Pyrite has gold inclusions.

Mundic is a variety of Pyrite which looks like roots or twigs but when it is broken down by oxidation, it resembles polished brass. This is the famous burning pyrite which was known even in antiquity. The Greek philosopher Theophrastus wrote that if crushed, watered and exposed to the rays of the sun, it would burst into flame.

At one time Pyrite was the source of sulfur. Today it is a minor ore for sulfur and iron. Auriferous pyrite is used as a mineral indicator of gold in gold-bearing deposits. Today, Iron Pyrite or Fool’s Gold, is an indicator of crude oil.

It is now accepted that Neanderthals made fire by striking a piece of pyrite. Not only that, but pyrite has also been found in prehistoric burial mounds giving evidence of its early use as a fire starter.

When the firearm was invented, Pyrite was used to start sparks to fire the gun.

Pyrite was known by the French as the Stone of Health because they said that pyrite is affected by the health of the wearer.

Pyrite was polished to make ritual objects like magical scrying mirrors by both Aztecs and the Incas.

Pyrite is a war stone. It was used as a powerful amulet to make the warriors strong and courageous during battle.

Pyrite is one of the best fengshui stones for attracting prosperity, wealth and abundance. After all, it has the appearance of real gold and it can be found where gold is mined. It is thus the stone to have if you are a business entrepreneur or in pursuit of academic excellence.

Pyrite is found all over the world and come in large crystals. However, the most important and largest deposit of Pyrite is from Peru.

The perfect cubes of Pyrite embedded in a matrix are found in abundance in the Victoria Mine, Navajun and La Rioja Mines in Spain. These are highly esteemed and sought after by collectors.

Pyritohedral crystals are found in Rio Marina Mine of the Island of Elba, Italy.

Complex pyrite crystals have been found in the Merelani Hills location of Arusha in Tanzania.

In the United States, large beautiful shaped Pyritohedrons have been found in the State of Utah. Other States where fine Pyrite is found in the United States include, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.