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PyriteA Natural History of Fool's Gold$
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David Rickard

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190203672

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190203672.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 08 December 2021

Crystals and Atoms

Crystals and Atoms

(p.87) 4 Crystals and Atoms

David Rickard

Oxford University Press

According to one magic crystal website, pyrite is a highly protective stone blocking and shielding you from negative energy. This may originate from Pietro Maria Canepario, who in 1619 cited Avicenna as stating that “if pyrite is worn on an infant’s neck, it defends him from all fear.” Other New Age sources maintain that pyrite can be beneficial when planning large business concepts because placing a piece on the desk energizes the area around it. Pyrite also reduces fatigue and is good for students because it is thought to improve memory and recall and to stimulate the flow of ideas. So you are certainly reading the right book … The magical properties of pyrite stem at least partly from the occurrence of pyritized ammonites (Figure 4.1) in ancient Egypt. Ammonites are fossils of coiled mollusks that became extinct at the same time as the dinosaurs at the end of the Mesozoic Era, about 60 million years ago. Ammonites got their name because they resemble coiled ram’s horns and the Egyptian god Amun (or Amon, Ammon, etc.) usually wore ram’s horns. The person responsible for this flight of fancy was Pliny the Elder, who called these fossils ammonis cornua or horns of Ammon. The golden pyritized ammonites were prized as lucky charms and worn as amulets in ancient Egypt. They are common today and may be readily collected from the beach at Charmouth in southern England, particularly after a storm has caused more fresh rock from the cliffs to tumble down onto the beach. The bright golden crystals of pyrite have fascinated humankind through the ages. The crystals display a variety of distinct shapes that make them extremely attractive. Indeed, pyrite may display the greatest variety of crystal forms of any common mineral. The great American mineralogist James Dwight Dana described eighty-five different forms, and the founder of geochemistry, Victor Moritz Goldschmidt, drew line drawings of almost 700 different pyrite crystals. In this chapter I show how the explanation of this extraordinary diversity of pyrite crystal shapes (or habits, formally) has helped reveal the nature of the material universe.

Keywords:   Cardiff: bioleaching, Mesozoic, Theaetetus, X-ray diffraction, designer pyrite, magical properties of pyrite, pyritized ammonites, topology

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