Pyrite vs Hematite: What Are They, And What’s The Difference?

Pyrite is one of the most plentiful sulfides on earth. Its golden and shimmery tones often mimic gold, leading to its historical nickname “Fool’s gold.”

Hematite is also an iron oxide but starts red and can be turned to black.

Both stones have similar physical makeup and can be found in many areas of the world.

Pyrite vs Hematite (EXPLAINED)

What Pyrite Is

Pyrite is made of iron and sulfide.

Pyrite is often mistaken for gold when it’s found.

Most people don’t know that this “fool’s gold” can often have real gold mixed in with it.

When this happens, the concentration and amounts of genuine gold will vary. 

The Physical Properties of Pyrite

Pyrite can look like crystals or nuggets when found.

It usually occurs as cubes or octahedrons because it is crystallized from molten material that cools quickly but is not limited to these shapes.

It’s been found in nearly all shapes and sizes based on the different conditions of its initial formation. Pyrite falls between 6-6.5 on Moh’s scale of hardness.

Like flint, it can be struck against a rock and produce sparks.

When pyrite is in the decomposition stage, if the sulfates combine with water, sulfuric acid fumes may be released into the air.

These gases can be hazardous to live creatures who inhale them.

What Hematite Is

Hematite is a type of iron oxide that turns black after processing.

It’s considered one of the most essential ores and comprises about 70% iron content.

Being prevalent the world over, it makes it easy to mine.

Hematite is the primary ingredient in some cosmetics due to its natural colors.

The Physical Properties of Hematite

Hematite is often distinctive from pyrite in that, when discovered in its rawest form, it’s usually found in shades of red.

It only turns black when it’s continually shined.

A person might find black hematite in the wild if the stone has constantly been exposed to wind and rain over long periods.

Held up to the light and turned, it can almost have a gold shimmer in some cases because of its original reddish and brown undertones.

Sometimes it has bubble-like edges.

In these cases, those bubble edges may be fragile and will flake off easily if chipped.

On the Moh’s hardness scale, it rates between 5.5 and 6.

Pyrite vs Hematite: The Similarities

Pyrite and hematite are both forms of iron compounds.

  • Both stones have a shiny luster when polished.
  • Both stones have a similar hardness when pushed, dropped, or scratched.
  • Both rocks are plentiful, found in many places of the earth.
  • Both stones are found embedded in soil and other rock formations. 

Pyrite and Hematite: The Differences

In terms of hardness, pyrite is slightly harder than hematite.

When comparing the Mohs scale for mineral hardness- which ranges from one to ten with two being as hard as a fingernail and ten being as hard as diamond- pyrite falls between 6-6.5 on the scale, while hematite falls between 5.5-6.

Hematite’s versatility is more significant than pyrite, especially when ground up or added to different industrial environments.

The cost of hematite is cheaper than pyrite due to its abundance, but pyrite has a higher purchase price because of chemical extraction, making particular industrial applications possible.

Pyrite and Hematite: Why the Two are Confused

Pyrite is often confused with hematite because sometimes the lighter and shinier shades of hematite are like the darker glossier shades of pyrite, which is where most of the overlap in confusion occurs.

If both are lustrous when found, then both can look like gold when held up to the light.

Change the lighting or scratch both on a surface, and you’ll be able to see the differences.

How to Identify Pyrite

The first thing to know about pyrite is that it’s going to look like rough, unpolished gold chunks or nuggets.

If your first thought is, “I’ve struck gold!”, then you’re most likely looking at a piece of pyrite.

The difference is that pyrite has a distinctive brassy color versus a yellow to white-yellow color like genuine gold.

Also, pyrite will have tarnish on the surface, whereas real gold will always be shiny when found.

There will also be fine lines running along the surface of a piece of pyrite, where gold will have none.

How to Identify Hematite

Hematite has straight edges, is shiny, and is usually red, dark brown, or black.

Contrary to common belief, hematite is not magnetic unless mixed with something else with a magnetic property.

Even in its darkest or shiniest colors, if you scrape it against something, it will make rust or red-colored streak, which is surprising to many.

Where to Find Pyrite

The best places to find pyrite depend on your proximity to a known stash of it.

This rock is found in multiple world locations, including South Africa, Peru, and Siberia.

In most cases, this shimmery stone is located near or inside quartz formations, sedimentary rock sections, and metameric rock formations.

Where to Find Hematite

Hematite is primarily found where water has been putting pressure on the soil for years.

It’s commonly found where sedimentary rock layers are or near previously active volcanoes or old lava flows.

It can be found all over the earth and, interestingly enough, all over Mars.

Most hematite is now produced by several countries, including the United States, China, Russia, South Africa, and Brazil.

What Pyrite is Used For

Pyrite is primarily used for industrial purposes to extra sulfuric acid in a liquid form.

Sulfuric acid is used in battery production, oil refinement, cleaning products, and wastewater processing.

Pyrite is rarely used in jewelry as it can break down when exposed to the elements, thus potentially releasing toxic fumes where a person can breathe them.

When pyrite and gold are mixed, sometimes companies might find it helpful and cost-effective to extract the gold from the rest of the pyrite when large amounts of pyrite are mixed with gold.  

What Hematite is Used For

Ground up, hematite has been used as a cheek color for centuries.

This stone was ground up and mixed with other materials to use for cave drawings in ancient times.

It’s most famous for being found in bracelets, amulets, and necklaces. 

It’s also used for industrial purposes as a radiation shield.

Ground up and placed in a pressurized environment, hematite is used to polish brass and other small metal pieces.

Conclusion

Pyrite and hematite both shine with luster, are similarly hard and are found all over the world.

Because both are plenty, they’ll be found in many uses and have value top specific niches within the creative and industrial communities.