Tuesday, October 11, 2005

A Fist Full of Pyrite Dollars

There is one place in the world where you can get smashed pyrite crystals and really enjoy looking at them--Sparta, Illinois.

In the old coal beds, pyrite suns (or dollars) form between the layers of coal. This is not an easy process for the pyrite, as they would probably make more of a sphere of pyrite similar to the ones that come from France.

They are formed from the coal itself. Coal has a lot of sulfur naturally in it. Some of this sulfur reacts with the iron that happens to be found in the coal beds in Sparta. When the sulfur and iron hook up together you get a wonderful product--Pyrite. Because they are sandwiched between the layers of coal, they are flat. They have no room to grow but out. So you get flat discs of iron pyrite. For a long time they were thought to be marcasite because the odd shape resembles a crystal form closer to marcasite than pyrite. But extensive research on them has proven they are indeed pyrite.

They range in size from about ½ inch to over 8", and I have heard rumors of some over 3 FEET!

My favorite ones are the ones still attached to the coal (which is really carbonic shale, but that's another story).

Recently I have seen some with a beautiful coloring--blues, reds, oranges, pinks and purples with a wonderful iridescence to them. These colors are a vapor coating of titanium dioxide. It is the same thing dealers do to quartz to make "aqua aura" and to Moqui Marbles to make "bogi stones"--100% not natural.

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