I am planning an RPG adventure where the characters might end up getting a large cubic lump of "gold", which in reality, as you might have guessed, is in fact pyrite.

I also wanted to plan for the contingency that the group wouldn't notice that it's not the real deal, so I thought I could maybe let one of the characters cut himself on the crystal. A quick google search yields images such as this: Large pyrite crystals (Source)

This looks pretty sharp and possibly blood-drawing, but is there a way to know for sure? Any recommendations as to how to handle sharp minerals? Any first-hand experiences?

  • $\begingroup$ Yes it is possible. $\endgroup$ – LordStryker Jan 10 '14 at 15:43
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for properly assigning the source of the image, which, btw., is really beautiful. No experiences on cutting on crystals, though. $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Jan 11 '14 at 7:17

The Wikipedia page for Mohs scale shows that pyrite has a hardness of 6-7 (according to the page on pyrite, it's 6-6.5) while plate glass has a hardness of 5.5 and a pocketknife has 5.1. I've cut myself on both knives and glass before, so I'd wager that pyrite should be able to slice.

The catch is that I've never cut myself on a cube of glass or a cube of steel before--a 90 degree edge just doesn't generate enough pressure for that. So either your pyrite must have very nice serrations on the edge or it must have an edge sharper than 90 degrees.

Is that possible? I don't know. I suppose at this point you could invoke the leeway granted to you by fiction.


Anything that can have an edge will cut you, assuming it is thin enough. This is why some science fiction novels will describe 'super sharp' swords as having a width of a single atom/molecule.

To address pyrite, specifically, we'd have to know the shape of your planned fool's gold.

  • Is it a lump of it, a bunch of coins or some other 'non-sharp' form? Those probably wouldn't cut anyone.
  • Is it a 'golden' sword? If it was thin (sharp) enough then it probably could.

To address your question about the handling of sharp materials - wear gloves, and don't touch the sharp side. If you can avoid touching it entirely (with tongs, or by lifting whatever it is resting in/on) even better. As a general rule of thumb contact with the pointy bits is more likely to make you lose that thumb than no contact.

  • $\begingroup$ The shape would be a cube, more or less as depicted by the image. So I reckon, probably you as well, that it's possible... $\endgroup$ – tschoppi Jan 11 '14 at 11:04

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