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Iron sulfide, also known as ferrous sulfide (FeS) and more commonly called pyrite, is one of the most common of the metallic sulphides and can be found in many types of ore. It can form crystals with a variety of structures and its black appearance has led to it being used in jewellery, particularly between the late 1700s and early 1900s, when it was often polished for a lustre reminiscent of gold. It can also be seen in natural minerals such as mackinawite and greigite. Iron sulfides have an extremely wide range of properties and are widely used in industry.
The properties of iron sulfide are determined mainly by its structure. The pyrite mineral has a cubic structure and forms crystals with crisply edged cubes and dodecahedra. It is not as well crystalline at lower temperatures, when it tends to have a trigonal prismatic structure. There are many subtle variants of this structure, and it may even form a hexagonal system. The phase relations of iron sulfides at higher temperatures are fairly well understood, but at lower temperature the relationships are complex.
Iron sulfide is soluble in water, but only very slowly. It is insoluble in nitric acid, hydrochloric acid and dilute alkalis. It is used as a laboratory chemical for the preparation of hydrogen sulfide gas, in hair dyes, in paints and pigments for ceramics and bottles and in lubricants. It is also used in the extraction of lead and other heavy metals from waste streams.