Marcasite vs. Pyrite

What's the Difference?

Marcasite and pyrite are two minerals that are often confused due to their similar appearance. However, they have distinct differences. Marcasite is a polymorph of pyrite, meaning it has the same chemical composition but a different crystal structure. It is more brittle and prone to crumbling compared to pyrite, which has a more metallic luster and is harder. Additionally, marcasite tends to tarnish and oxidize more easily, while pyrite is more resistant to corrosion. Despite these disparities, both minerals are known for their golden metallic color and are commonly used in jewelry and decorative pieces.


Chemical FormulaFeS2FeS2
Crystal SystemOrthorhombicCubic
ColorPale yellow to whiteBrassy yellow
Hardness6 - 6.56 - 6.5
Specific Gravity4.8 - 4.94.9 - 5.2
UsesJewelry, gemstoneJewelry, gemstone, sulfur source

Further Detail


Marcasite and pyrite are two minerals that are often confused due to their similar appearance. Both minerals have a metallic luster and a brassy yellow color, leading to their common nickname "fool's gold." However, despite their similarities, marcasite and pyrite have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two minerals, including their crystal structures, chemical compositions, physical properties, and uses.

Crystal Structure

Marcasite and pyrite have different crystal structures, which contribute to their varying properties. Marcasite crystallizes in the orthorhombic system, forming slender prismatic crystals with a unique pseudo-hexagonal shape. On the other hand, pyrite crystallizes in the cubic system, resulting in cubic or pyritohedral crystals. The distinct crystal structures of marcasite and pyrite give them different cleavage and fracture patterns, affecting their overall durability and appearance.

Chemical Composition

While both marcasite and pyrite are iron sulfide minerals, they have different chemical compositions. Marcasite has a chemical formula of FeS2, meaning it consists of one iron atom bonded to two sulfur atoms. Pyrite, on the other hand, has a chemical formula of FeS2 as well, but it contains two iron atoms bonded to two sulfur atoms. This subtle difference in composition leads to variations in their physical properties and reactivity.

Physical Properties

When it comes to physical properties, marcasite and pyrite exhibit some notable distinctions. Marcasite has a lower hardness compared to pyrite, ranking around 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale. Pyrite, on the other hand, is relatively harder, scoring a 6.5 to 7. This difference in hardness affects their scratch resistance and durability. Additionally, marcasite has a lower specific gravity of around 4.8, while pyrite has a higher specific gravity of approximately 5.0 to 5.2. The specific gravity of a mineral indicates its density and can be used as a diagnostic tool for identification.

Another significant difference lies in their stability. Marcasite is known to be unstable and prone to oxidation, especially in humid environments. Over time, marcasite can deteriorate and transform into a powdery substance known as "white rust." On the contrary, pyrite is more stable and less susceptible to oxidation. This stability makes pyrite a more suitable mineral for various applications.


Both marcasite and pyrite have been used for various purposes throughout history. Due to its instability, marcasite is primarily valued as a collector's mineral and for its aesthetic appeal in jewelry. Marcasite jewelry, often set in sterling silver, showcases the mineral's unique crystal structure and metallic luster. However, marcasite jewelry requires proper care to prevent oxidation and maintain its beauty.

Pyrite, on the other hand, has a wider range of applications. Historically, pyrite was used to produce sulfuric acid, an essential chemical in various industries. It was also used as a source of ignition in early firearms. In modern times, pyrite is primarily used as an ore of sulfur and as a source of iron in the production of steel. Additionally, pyrite's distinctive appearance and metallic luster make it a popular mineral for collectors and for decorative purposes.


In conclusion, while marcasite and pyrite may share some similarities in appearance, they have distinct attributes that differentiate them. Their crystal structures, chemical compositions, physical properties, and uses set them apart from each other. Marcasite's orthorhombic crystal structure, lower hardness, and instability make it a unique collector's mineral and a delicate choice for jewelry. On the other hand, pyrite's cubic crystal structure, higher hardness, stability, and versatile applications make it a more practical and widely used mineral. Understanding the differences between marcasite and pyrite allows us to appreciate their individual characteristics and applications in various fields.

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