Fool’s gold, also known as pyrite (FeS2), is not magnetic.
This may not be clear because pyrite is iron sulfide, and iron is magnetic.
However, some related materials are magnetic but do not boast magnetism as strong as iron (Fe).
Pyrite ranks as the most common sulfide mineral in nature.
This article will answer why fool’s gold is not magnetic while answering other related questions.
Is Fool’s Gold Magnetic? (Explained)
What Is Fool’s Gold?
Fool’s gold is a compound with a close physical semblance to real gold but isn’t real.
The combination can be either of three minerals, with the most common compound mistaken for gold being pyrite.
Also, Chalcopyrite is another compound that can be mistaken for gold but isn’t, with the third compound being weathered mica.
When these compounds are compared with real gold, they will powder, flake and even crumble when a metal point is used to poke them.
On the other hand, real gold will indent or gouge when poked using a metal point.
Also, real gold always leaves behind a golden yellow streak when scraping using unglazed porcelain.
Mica will leave behind a white line, while Chalcopyrite and pyrite will leave behind a dark green to black streak.
Iron pyrite is gotten in different sedimentary rocks like shale, limestone, and coal in addition to schist (a metamorphic rock).
Fool’s gold is quite common in ore deposits associated with several other minerals containing metals.
In shale, pyrite creates pyritized fossils wherein the pyrite effectively replaces the shell material within the fossil.
When measured using the Mohs hardness scale, Pyrites have a hardness range between 6 and 6.5.
Although not as bright as real gold, the compound has a brassy yellow color.
The Pyrite compound has 53.33 percent sulfur and 46.67 percent iron by weight.
Pyrite is known to form in different conditions.
For instance, it may be formed through magmatic segregation through stalactitic growth and hydrothermal solutions.
Additionally, it creates an accessory mineral within igneous rocks and vein deposits within sulfide minerals and quartz.
There are two different tests to prove the authenticity or otherwise of a substance suspected to be fool’s gold.
I. Color: Pyrite features a brassy color while gold has a yellow color
II. Tarnish: Most naturally occurring pyrite is made up of a bit of tarnish on its surface, while nuggets of gold are untarnished and bright.
III. Striations: Most pyrite crystals are composed of fine parallel lines on their surfaces, while gold doesn’t.
IV. Shape: Pyrite compounds have angular pieces, with most of them having octahedron, cubical and pyritohedron faces—gold, on the other hand, feature rounded surfaces.
Hardness and streak: Gold features a yellow streak, while pyrite boasts a greenish-black streak. Pyrites have a hardness of 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale, while gold has a hardness of 2.5.
II. Sectility and ductility: You can cut some gold particles using a sharp pocket knife while you can’t do the same with pyrite. Also, gold is quite malleable and can dent or bend when sharp pressure is applied. Small pyrite pieces will either resist or break under such pressure.
What Does Magnetic Mean?
Magnetism refers to a natural force created by mobile electric charges.
These moving charges are contained within materials referred to as magnets.
The magnetic fields created by the mobile charges can repel or attract other magnetics and even affect the movement of other charged compounds.
Compounds like iron (Fe) can produce permanent magnets, implying that they can effectively retain a magnetic field.
Some other minerals like nickel, iron and cobalt may get a temporary magnetic field by simply placing them within a more robust and more extensive area.
Still, they soon lose their magnetism with time.
Note that magnetic field sources are usually dipolar, implying they have the south and north poles.
Like poles will repel while unlike poles will attract.
Types of Magnets
There are three different magnet types: permanent, temporary, and electromagnets.
· Electromagnets: These magnets are created by putting a metal core within a coil of wire that carries an electric charge. Also, the electricity that passes through the wire generates an electromagnetic field. Electromagnets are used in TVs, computers and other electric-powered motors.
· Temporary magnets: Certain iron and alloys and iron can get magnetized easily with the help of even a not-too-strong magnetic field. But, when this magnetic field gets removed, the object soon loses its magnetism.
· Permanent magnets: Some examples of permanent magnets include ferrites, alnico and ferrites, which are made from a combination of strontium, nickel or cobalt with iron oxides. When permanent magnets get magnetized, they hardly lose their magnetism. Permanent magnets are made mainly using materials like alnico, ceramic and neodymium. The magnets made using ceramics are pretty strong and perform well in many experiments. On the other hand, although more expensive than ceramic magnets, alnico magnets do well in science experiments.
Why Is Fool’s Gold Not-Magnetic?
A material is categorized as magnetic when it responds to an external field of magnetism, and this reaction varies between very weak and very strong.
In a situation where the material’s response to the outer area is inadequate, it can be said that the material isn’t magnetic even though it has few magnetic features.
Note that a substance’s iron constituent doesn’t mean that it is magnetic.
Pyrite (fool’s gold) is not a mixture but a compound.
In chemistry, compounds combine at least two distinct elements bonded chemically and can hardly be separated.
Such mixtures no longer have the different features of each component.
On the other hand, mixtures are made up of at least two elements so that each of the elements still retains its features and can be separated easily.
It suffices to say that if you mixed ground up sulfur with ground up iron, the result wouldn’t be pyrite, and you should be able to separate them using a magnet.
But with pyrite, this isn’t the case.
With sulfur and iron, bonding the two elements implies that the iron electrons that rotate along the same direction will now be opposed by the sulfur electrons traveling in the opposite direction.
What is the big deal about fool’s gold not being magnetic?
A good understanding of the non-magnetic nature of pyrite has aided several research efforts, especially in geology.
The non-magnetic nature of fool’s gold helps researchers understand its possible applications.
Also, the magnetic nature of pyrites helps Geologists understand the nature, strength, and use of subsurface structures dominated by pyrites.
Pyrite or fool’s gold is a weak compound containing Fe (II).
A good understanding of pyrite’s magnetic features helps researchers understand its secondary chemical remanence, sedimentary magnetism, and meteorolite magnetic features.
While the long-term perception of the mineral is nearly worthless, further research into its magnetism and the possibility of getting it magnetized could see its worth and perception improve.
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