Pyrite : FeS2

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Copyright © Rob Lavinsky & irocks.com
minID: 8HE-LRA

Pyrite : FeS2

Copyright © Rob Lavinsky & irocks.com  - This image is copyrighted. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.
Dimensions: 8.4 cm x 7.8 cm x 0.8 cm

8.4 x 7.8 x 0.8 cm. These beautiful, lustrous pyrite floater "suns" formed between an ancient bed of shale and clay near Sparta, Illinois. This one is complete-all-around, front and back. The radial appearance of the pyrite is very interesting and the pyrite has a flashy, chatoyant shimmer. The sides have distinctly different looks. A partial second generation overlay of pyrite adds much character. Very highly representative of this unusual occurrence.

This photo has been shown 3568 times
Photo added:31st Aug 2011
Dimensions:465x438px (0.20 megapixels)

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Discuss this Photo

PhotosPyrite - Sparta, Randolph Co., Illinois, USA

17th Apr 2013 18:05 BSTKelly Colberg

I saw these pyrite "suns" at a gem and mineral show this past weekend and wanted to buy one, but I didn't because I thought it might be a fake. After seeing this though, I wish I would have bought one of them they are very interesting. Does anybody know if it is likely that these things can be faked?

17th Apr 2013 20:03 BSTDana Slaughter

Hi Kelly,

They are real and come from spoil piles at area coal mines. The coal companies don't want the pyrite (high sulfur) mixed in with the coal so the shale layers where these are found are stripped and dumped. They appear to crystallize radially from some sort of seed material (possibly fossil or organic) in horizontal layers. They have long been known from area coal mines and specimens continue to come out today. I believe Peabody Coal has reopened a mine or mines in the area. The iridescent ones that one occasionally sees are treated to produce the color and nearly all of the examples of the pyrite suns or dollars in the black shale have been reconstructed (in most cases literally constructed). I love the things!

18th Apr 2013 00:48 BSTRob Woodside Manager

The ones with Marcasite seem unstable

18th Apr 2013 01:08 BSTMark Heintzelman Expert

Actually Rob, That is more repeated than it is factual.

See: http://www.mindat.org/forum.php?read,55,96471,101910#msg-101910

I have heard of some people laying claim that they have had unstable ones, including Albert Mura, a long time pyrite collector of some note. The lion share of collectors I've spoken to, myself included, have never had a problem with them after many decades of owning them. I would conclude that the odds of having one in your collection for a good long time is actually in your favor.


18th Apr 2013 01:38 BSTRob Woodside Manager

I had a pyrite one from the 19th century that I'm sure is still holding up. I also had one with Marcasite that someone made into a clock. At least the batteries died before the sun did. That's my only evidence.

18th Apr 2013 03:14 BSTDana Slaughter

I've seen very many unstable ones---many of them quite recently offered for sale in Tucson. They were so gray and cracked that I couldn't imagine anyone buying one at any price. I don't know if this is a result of any cleaning process but they were certainly not going to last much longer in whole condition.

18th Apr 2013 04:17 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

First off, these things are very abundant. Back in the day (i.e. last year and earlier) when we sold hundreds of these per year, I could buy them buy the hundreds.

A typical mine-run lot needed cleaning to remove shale residue. Exacto knife and ultrasonic cleaner do a good job. Maybe 5% shattered in the cleaner. Next, I would let them sit for a few months to see if any showed signs of pyrite disease. Perhaps 10-20% did. These were discarded, and the remainder deemed ready for sale. While in inventory, perhaps an additional 5% began to rot, and these were also discarded.

So overall we lost 20-30% due to internal cracks, rot, etc.

Given what these things cost when purchased wholesale 100 at a time, and what people were willing to pay for them (at the peak of the now-saturated market), this was an acceptable loss rate.

18th Apr 2013 04:42 BSTBob Harman

I have had several collector friends self collect these in years past so I can sum up some of the points raised in the previous posts. Yes, they are intermittently quite available, both with and without shale matrix. Some collectors/dealers spray them, after cleaning and trimming, with polyurethane or similar stuff to both stabilize the pyrite sun onto the matrix and prevent or delay pyrite disease. Many suns easily fall off the shale matrix as they "dry out" unless stabilized onto the matrix. You usually easily can see the sprayed examples by the glossy or shiny appearance of the shale and pyrite sun. And yes some are quite stable and others, with increased marcasite (?) are unstable, turning grayish and crumbling or cracking after a relatively short time. One person I talked to about this said that if kept in a relatively humid environment like boxed up in a damp basement or shed, the degeneration is rapidly enhanced. While those displayed examples such as in dry lighted cases seem to last a much longer time. Another related that if specimens are treated with iron out in an attempt to enhance any gold pyrite color, the "sun" rapidly degenerates, turning a crumbly gray color after a short while. So that is what I know about them........CHEERS.........BOB

8th Jan 2015 12:14 GMTPhilip Bluemner Expert


there doesn't seem to be much info about a determined mine or mines from which the suns/dollars come from. Would the correct locality term be "coal mines around Sparta, IL"? Did they crystallize between coal layers or shale?

Best regards


8th Jan 2015 13:32 GMTDavid Von Bargen Manager

"Did they crystallize between coal layers or shale? " - shale, there are some specimens available in matrix.

8th Jan 2015 14:19 GMTDana Slaughter

These are actually found throughout a wide area...across at least a few counties. I've had them from the "Marissa mine" and the "Zeigler mine" though nearly all that I've purchased and sold over the years are simply labeled as being from "near Sparta, Randolph County, Illinois."

David is correct---they seem to crystalline within the shale units at the various mines. This shale is commonly referred to as "slate" on specimens that I've seen offered online---there is no slate at the area mines but the material, especially when coated, does look like common slate.

As Steve pointed out, these were readily available a couple/few years back from at least one of the wholesalers in Tucson. I hand-picked dozens of them from him at very low cost and he is a magician in terms of cleaning and prepping these things---he had the best I've ever seen.

I've seen no new ones available since that time.

8th Jan 2015 15:37 GMTBob Harman

The coal mine spoils piles, at least in nearby southwestern Indiana, are constantly being graded, contoured and being reclaimed. I am reasonably certain the nearby southern Illinois spoils piles are "community' piles of several nearby mines and being similarly reclaimed. Their overburden has also produced many Pennsylvanian fossil types as I collected them as a novice many years ago. This reclaiming occurs even as some of the mines in both states are still operating. One day in the not too distant future this whole area will be an extinct location. CHEERS……BOB

8th Jan 2015 22:12 GMTRock Currier Expert

They have come from several coal mines near Sparta Illinois. The exact mine names are generally not given out by the people who know the mine they came from, because the coal companies frown on their employees collecting specimen on their dime/time. They fear that naming a mine might make the management crack down on their miners and therefore reduce the supply of dollars that they can get. They occur in the shale above the coat seam and are completely enclosed in it and lie embedded parallel to the bedding plane of the shale. I was told by one of the miners that they could often see them reflecting their cap lamps light back at them when they directed their lights on the ceiling of the vein after the coal was removed. Then all you have to do is bar them down or pick them up from the break down shale on the floor. The largest one I ever saw was about 7 inches in diameter. I don't know if it is still intact or has decomposed. I traded it for a nice specimen, always figuring I could get another. I don't know what the current situation is. Perhaps Stan Esbenshade of Tucson has more current information.

22nd Jan 2015 22:20 GMTKeith Compton Manager


I have had mixed experience with these. Certainly if any Marcasite is present then they will disintegrate over time.

Which is why if you buy one - don't pay much, just enjoy while you can. They are fun things and certainly unusual.

As alluded to above, if you see any cracks in the specimen - then it's on its way out.

I guess the only way to "fake" them is gluing them back onto the shale matrix and if it is the same place in which it formed then is it fake? - bit like those Spanish Pyrites.



5th Feb 2015 17:28 GMTPhilip Bluemner Expert

I wouldn't call it fake, but "repaired".


30th Aug 2015 18:59 BSTDaniel Ortolani

I am interested in purchasing a good quantity of pyrite suns. Does anyone know the name(s) of wholesale dealers in Tuscon or anywhere that might help me? Thanks.

5th Sep 2015 19:50 BSTDaryl Ann

I'm just learning about these, but have not purchased or seen one yet (except for sale online). I live in Peoria, IL, so am intrigued about maybe visiting a mine and finding some of my own. I've never heard of pyrite disease, and wondering if it would be "arrested" and the sun remain stable if sealed in orgonite?

5th Sep 2015 20:10 BSTBob Harman

I would remind you that these are almost always found in the overburden shale of coal mines around Sparta, Illinois. The overburden shale piles, spoils piles, are on coal mine private property and pretty much constantly being reclaimed as mining progresses. If you join a local club, they might gain access to a productive site. That is your best bet; otherwise collecting them on your own is largely wishful thinking. CHEERS......BOB

24th Jul 2016 19:02 BSTSteve Moeller

would you be able to tell me a name of a wholesaler that attends the Tuscon show. I need a supplier at the wholesale level for my online store. I have depleted my source in Coulterville. Thanks

(Steve, you can't advertise you store here in the message boards.)

4th Aug 2016 00:02 BSTMatt Heaton

I'm also looking for wholesale supplier for pyrite suns. Any help would be appreciated.

7th Aug 2016 14:36 BSTPeyton Cohoon

Private message me

7th Aug 2016 14:38 BSTPeyton Cohoon

I can help you

7th Aug 2016 14:38 BSTPeyton Cohoon

Message me I can help you

8th Aug 2016 15:16 BSTSteve Hardinger Expert

Help me do what?

21st Nov 2016 02:39 GMTjeff cohoon sparta il 618 317 2812


21st Nov 2016 02:44 GMTjeff cohoon sparta il 618 317 2812


21st Nov 2016 02:47 GMTjeff cohoon sparta il 618 317 2812


21st Nov 2016 05:06 GMTBikingail

Please do not put items for sale on here.

17th Nov 2017 23:22 GMTkellie kulton

Can anyone explain a bit more about pyrite disease and if there is anything that can be done about it? Thank you!

18th Nov 2017 03:38 GMTDoug Daniels

There are other threads dealing with "pyrite disease"; I don't have any specific links. In a nutshell, sometimes a short-term fix can be done, but usually, once the degradation starts, it will continue. How fast depends on the individual specimen. I would also point out you can have the same problem with marcasite, and it may degrade even faster than pyrite (I had a few with nice large crystals that rather suddenly disintegrated).

18th Aug 2018 05:00 BSTL Brew (Lacie Brewner)

I have pyrite dollars for sale. Real, from gateway mine.
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