The gemstone industry relies heavily on scientific research for improvements and innovations in areas from geology, chemistry and physics to aid in mining, testing/identifying, treatment and synthetics. The grand finale for most minerals is the masterfully detailed cutting and polishing to produce a faceted gemstone that best displays the gem’s clarity, colour and brilliance. Having said this, there are some minerals that have their best version on show in their natural state. Pyrite is one of those minerals where cutting and polishing will in fact not enhance but rather ruin their natural beauty. I’m foolishly in love with pyrite and all its forms and fascinating features. As a Gemmologist who is completely in awe of the crystallography, I think Pyrite is the perfect mineral.
Known to many by its nickname ‘fool’s gold’, there’s nothing foolish about it. Pyrite is one of the most common sulphide minerals and has a brass yellow colour and metallic lustre; this paired with its high specific gravity (heft) it can resemble gold to the untrained eye. Although miners may be fooled by the appearance it can be a good indicator for gold as they are often found in association with each other and in some instances, pyrite may contain gold but not necessarily in mineable quantities.
Where to begin with Pyrite? Let’s start with the most refined expression, the cube. Belonging to the cubic crystal system, this remarkable mineral displays fine examples of typical cubic forms. The cube itself, although the simplest form, is a rare naturally occurring shape with most cubic crystals forming as octahedrons, dodecahedrons, tetrahedrons and others combining two together. Cubes may be singular, twinned or clustered to produce feats of pure craft and precision (isn’t nature awesome?).
From the sleek, lustrous surface of the cube to the sparkle of a cluster of crystals; this is where we start to have fun. The best sparkly specimens are unearthed in Spain, Chile and Peru. The crystals may be extremely fine, measuring under 1mm up to sizes of 20mm and in rare occasions larger. The more delicate crystals appear as a fine glitter while the bigger crystals create a dynamic specimen with defined lustrous crystal faces. These are the pieces Bunny Bedi, owner and designer at Made in Earth, has the most enjoyment (and frustration) working with for his designs.
“I love Pyrite, it’s just so cool. I’m never afraid to go ‘large’ with my pyrite jewellery designs because I know I’m not the only one who loves that Pyrite glitz! Each piece is completely unique and sparkles without any assistance. It’s a relatively inexpensive stone, however it takes a lot of patience to cut the large pieces of rough down to usable sizes (and weights) for jewellery. We lose a lot of stone in the process and due to its brittle nature, we occasionally break stones during the setting process. But when we have success, it’s so worth it.”
The exquisite twinkle of Pyrite can also be found in fossils when pyritization takes place in unique geochemical conditions. Ammonites are an extinct group of marine invertebrate animals which thrived in the tropic seas spanning from the Devonian geological period (circa 400 million years ago) and are known to form in this way, with each internal cavity displaying fine Pyrite crystals and a highly lustrous gold on polished edges.
Pyrite suns are another weird and wonderful formation of Pyrite. Predominantly found in Illinois USA, they are completely unusual in comparison to the usual geometric forms. These golden disks feature radiating golden crystals with a circular rhythmic glimmer that is simply mesmerising. Their appearance has coined the nicknames of pyrite dollars or sun dollars. Discovered in coal mines 100 meters below the earth’s surface they are believed to have formed over 350 million years ago!
Another wondrous product of the Earth is Rainbow Pyrite. Found in spherical concretions near the Volga River in Russia, they contain internal shrinkage cracks that are lined with an iridescent druzy of pyrite crystals. Caused by oxidation, the effect is truly remarkable particularly when you see our rainbow pyrite rings and pendants display that full spectrum of colour reflecting a natural rainbow of colours. With careful cutting to remove the layer of Pyrite the resulting stones can rival the dynamic crystals of other Pyrite clusters.
Whilst some gemstones may need a helping hand to ‘glam up’, pyrite is a natural beauty that is always red-carpet-ready. Don’t be a fool and dismiss this humble mineral because I can guarantee you, whether it be one of our Pyrite rings, pendants or earrings; wearing any of our amazing Pyrite crystal jewellery pieces, you will be getting all the attention.
The title of “Gemologist” carries more than just knowledge and skills, it also suggests a person who is perpetually intrigued by the marvels of minerals and delicacy of crystallography and, I’d say, a fascination with the universe in general. Rocks and minerals leak a story of the past. As we study these million to billion-year-old specimens we can relive some of the conditions our planet has seen. More specifically, the microscopic investigation of inclusions in gemstones also tells a tale, where crystal has been, where it has come from and how old it is.
The Sikhote-Alin Meteorite is the largest observed meteorite fall in modern history. It is estimated that over 23,000kg fell that morning leaving behind 120 craters, the largest measuring 6 x 26 metres, with debris covering an elliptical area of 1.62km. The pre-atmospheric size of meteorite body was suggested to weigh over 1000 tonnes and more than 70 tonnes estimated to have reach the Earth’s surface. From this, 8,500 specimens have been collected, the largest weighing in at 1,725kg!
Kind of like a big-time celebrity who is notoriously private out of the public eye, Sapphire is one of those stones that absolutely everyone has heard about, but no one really knows anything about. “They’re the blue one’s, yeah?” Obviously not private in a Kardashian way, more like a Beyoncé situation. Yes, I just compared sapphires to Beyoncé; perhaps Kate (the Duchess of Cambridge) is more appropriate Bey is an Emerald girl after all.