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Pyrite vs. Galena — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on September 29, 2023
Pyrite is an iron sulfide known as "fool's gold," while Galena is a lead sulfide and the primary ore of lead.
Pyrite vs. Galena — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Pyrite and Galena


Key Differences

Pyrite and Galena are both naturally occurring minerals, but they differ in their chemical compositions. Pyrite is iron sulfide, represented by the chemical formula FeS2. In contrast, Galena is lead sulfide with the chemical formula PbS.
In terms of appearance, Pyrite often forms as golden, shiny, cubic crystals, leading to its nickname "fool's gold." On the other hand, Galena typically presents as silvery gray, cube-like structures, often with a shiny metallic luster.
Historically and commercially, Pyrite and Galena have had distinct uses. While Pyrite might have misled some into thinking they'd struck gold, it has been used in the production of sulfuric acid. Conversely, Galena stands out as the primary ore of lead, and it has been mined extensively for that purpose.
In terms of density, Pyrite and Galena exhibit differences. Pyrite generally has a density ranging from 4.9 to 5.2 g/cm^3. Galena, being lead-based, is denser and typically showcases a density around 7.2 to 7.6 g/cm^3.
When it comes to streak tests, which are crucial in mineral identification, Pyrite leaves a greenish-black streak on a porcelain streak plate. In contrast, Galena produces a lead-gray streak.

Comparison Chart

Chemical Formula



Golden, shiny, cubic crystals
Silvery gray, cube-like structures

Primary Use

Production of sulfuric acid
Primary ore of lead


4.9 to 5.2 g/cm^3
7.2 to 7.6 g/cm^3

Streak Color


Compare with Definitions


A naturally occurring iron sulfide mineral.
Miners once mistook Pyrite for gold during the gold rush.


Can contain trace amounts of silver.
Some miners seek Galena not just for lead but also for silver impurities.


Often referred to as "fool's gold" because of its appearance.
Many people have been deceived by the appearance of Pyrite.


Forms in hydrothermal veins.
We discovered a vein rich in Galena deep within the mountain.


Has a metallic luster and brass-yellow hue.
The bright shine of Pyrite attracts many collectors.


A naturally occurring lead sulfide mineral.
Galena mines were prevalent due to its lead content.


Forms in various geological environments.
We found Pyrite crystals in the sedimentary rock at the dig site.


The primary ore used for lead production.
Extracting lead from Galena has been practiced for centuries.


Used in the production of sulfuric acid.
Factories often extracted sulfur from Pyrite for industrial processes.


Exhibits a metallic luster with a gray color.
The silvery appearance of Galena is distinctive in rock samples.


The mineral pyrite (), or iron pyrite, also known as fool's gold, is an iron sulfide with the chemical formula FeS2 (iron (II) disulfide). Pyrite is the most abundant sulfide mineral.


Galena, also called lead glance, is the natural mineral form of lead(II) sulfide (PbS). It is the most important ore of lead and an important source of silver.Galena is one of the most abundant and widely distributed sulfide minerals.


A brass-colored mineral, FeS2, occurring widely and used as an iron ore and in producing sulfur dioxide for sulfuric acid. Also called fool's gold, iron pyrites.


A gray mineral, essentially PbS, the principal ore of lead.


(mineral) The common mineral iron disulfide (FeS2), of a pale brass-yellow color and brilliant metallic luster, crystallizing in the isometric system.


(mineral) A mineral, lead sulphide (PbS), mined as an ore for lead.


(usually as a plural: pyrites) Any metallic-looking sulphide, such as the above, which is the most common.


A remedy or antidote for poison; theriac


(usually as a plural: pyrites) Any metal dichalcogenide that is isostructural to the common mineral.
Copper diselenide can occur both as a marcasite and a pyrite.


A remedy or antidote for poison; theriaca.


A common mineral of a pale brass-yellow color and brilliant metallic luster, crystallizing in the isometric system; iron pyrites; iron disulphide.
Hence sable coal his massy couch extends,And stars of gold the sparkling pyrite blends.


Lead sulphide; the principal ore of lead. It is of a bluish gray color and metallic luster, and is cubic in crystallization and cleavage.


A common mineral (iron disulfide) that has a pale yellow color


Soft blue-gray mineral; lead sulfide; a major source of lead

Common Curiosities

Why is Pyrite called "fool's gold"?

Pyrite's golden appearance often misled people into thinking they'd found gold.

Is Galena toxic?

Yes, because Galena contains lead, it can be toxic if ingested or if dust is inhaled.

What is Pyrite commonly known as?

Pyrite is commonly known as "fool's gold."

Can Pyrite be used to make gold?

No, Pyrite's gold-like appearance is superficial, and it does not contain actual gold.

Does Pyrite have any economic value?

While not as valuable as gold, Pyrite has been used in the production of sulfuric acid.

Is Galena magnetic?

No, Galena is not magnetic.

Are Pyrite and Galena the same mineral?

No, Pyrite is iron sulfide, while Galena is lead sulfide.

Are Pyrite crystals always cubic?

While Pyrite often forms cubic crystals, it can also form in other shapes.

What is the primary use of Galena?

Galena is primarily used as an ore of lead.

Can Pyrite be found in jewelry?

Yes, Pyrite is sometimes used in jewelry for its decorative appearance.

How can one differentiate Galena from other metallic minerals?

Galena's lead-gray streak and high density make it distinguishable.

What are the environmental concerns related to Galena mining?

Galena mining can lead to lead contamination, posing risks to both the environment and human health.

Where is Galena typically found?

Galena is typically found in hydrothermal veins and sedimentary rocks.

What other minerals are often associated with Galena?

Galena is often associated with minerals like sphalerite, quartz, and calcite.

Does Pyrite occur in meteorites?

Yes, Pyrite has been found in some meteorites.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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