The substances pyrite, chalcopyrite, and weathered mica are also known by what other term?

And the answer: Fool’s Gold.  
Photo credit: Ivar Leidus

At first glance, all three substances mimic gold in some way. However, when scratched against unglazed porcelain, gold will leave a golden yellow streak, while pyrite and chalcopyrite will leave a dark green or black streak, and micas will leave a white streak.

Gold is one of the most sought-after minerals in the world, yet similarly composed minerals have long fooled those seeking to obtain it. Pyrite, although similar in color and shine to gold, has a brittle composition and falls apart easily. Real gold is distinguished by its soft texture, and its tendency to bend and dent instead of breaking apart. Interestingly, humans have been mining and extracting gold for around 6,600 years, yet it’s estimated that around 70% of the world’s gold reserves have yet to be found.  

Many other minerals are popularly mined today, often with comparably long and complex mining histories. Copper, for example, is one of the most diverse minerals known to man. The earliest known metalworking in North America began some 7,000 years ago, when Native Americans mined copper in hand-dug pits on an isolated peninsula in the midwest, and it continues to be one of the most useful minerals in day-to-day life. From jewelry to pipes to door knobs to tools, copper is prized for its durability and electrical/heat conductivity. Another mineral, called lithium, is necessary for batteries and most rechargeable devices we use—and the list goes on and on. It may be mind blowing to think that the power we take for granted every day—from chargers to musical instruments to the pipes in our bathrooms—all comes from minerals and other substances created and mined from the Earth, but it’s true!

Did you know?

Yesterday was National Miners Day! Each year on December 6th, renewed efforts to give back to the hardworking miners who make our modern way of life possible take place around the United States. While most consumers never come in contact with the minerals and raw materials that make up our copper wire or batteries or cookware, miners put their lives on the line to extract the substances that we need and use in our lives. While in recent years safety conditions have improved, advocacy and thanksgiving efforts are encouraged on National Miners Day to ensure a safe future for all miners. Learn more about the holiday here.


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