Fools Gold – What Is It?

What Is Fools Gold? Its Meaning

Iron pyrite is a mineral that bears a resemblance to gold, but in terms of value, it does not compare. Some people have been fooled by it because they thought it was actual gold, hence it has been given the nickname “fool’s gold.”

Example: I bought a golden necklace for my wife as a gift, or at least I thought I did. Apparently, it was actually made out of fool’s gold! I’ll have to be more careful next time.


Some History On “Fools Gold”

There’s a mineral called iron pyrite that looks similar to gold. Since people are sometimes fooled by the appearance of this mineral, it is also called “fool’s gold.” For a brief moment, let’s look at what happened to an English seaman named Martin Frobisher.

During the second half of the 16th century, Martin Frobisher made three trips to Canada. It was on his second trip that he found a mineral that he mistook as gold. He carried hundreds of tons of it back home with him on three ships and made a fine profit from it.

Later, Frobisher returned to Canada, this time he had several additional ships accompanying him. He wanted to mine more of this “gold” and bring it back with him, and that’s what he did. However, it was eventually figured out that this wasn’t gold at all! It was actually iron pyrite, a worthless (in terms of value) mineral.

Anyways, one of the earliest examples this phrase in print is from the year 1872. For example, in the newspaper Indiana Progress, in an article titled “Fool’s Gold and How we may Know it,” it reads:

“There are several minerals which are sometimes mistaken for gold, but the two which are most apt to give rise to deception in this matter are pyrites and mica, and hence they are sometimes called fool’s gold.”

Example Sentence

  • I bought some jewelry made out of fool’s gold instead of the real thing because it was cheaper.

Note: The origin of many popular phrases is not clear. When this happens, I might list a theory or two that talk about how an idiom originated. What if no theory is listed on the page? Then there should still be a quote on on there. The quote you’ll see is typically the earliest known appearance of that phrase in print.