Fool Gold

Fool’s Gold (pyrite, iron pyrite)

Fool’s gold, a mineral composed of iron sulfide, FeS2, is known by the technical name pyrite, or iron pyrites. Brassy yellow in color with a metallic luster, it often occurs in cubeshaped crystals. Its resemblance to gold led to its playing a part in the history of exploration.

In 1542, JACQUES CARTIER, exploring northeastern North America for France, in his search for the mythical Native American land of SAGUENAY, found what he believed to be gold and precious stones near the St. Lawrence River of present-day Canada. When tested in France, the minerals turned out to be pyrite and quartz. In 1576, SIR MARTIN FROBISHER, exploring for England, brought a sample of pyrite back from Baffin Island in Frobisher Bay in what is now northern Canada, believing it to be gold. His rock was initially analyzed by two scientists, who reported it to be nothing more than worthless pyrite, but an Italian alchemist by the name of Aquello claimed he had found a speck of gold in the samples.

The CATHAY COMPANY was founded to develop mining interests, with London merchant Michael Lok a principal investor. Frobisher carried out two other expeditions, with mining operations the financial incentive, in 1577 and 1578, and returned with some 200 tons and 1,350 tons of ore respectively, which yielded nothing of value to the investors.

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