Cinnabar was mined by the Roman Empire for its mercury content and it has been the main ore of mercury to this day. Interestingly, some mines used by the Romans are still being mined today. Cinnabar has a very appealing red color. I’ve come across the following adjectives for its color, to name a few: vermillion red, bright scarlet, cinnamon red, brick red and my favorite; cochineal red (dye made from powdered bodies of the cochineal insect. Not kidding . . . ). It also has a varied luster; adamantine, more metallic when colored dark, and dull to earthy in massive. Associations with various aesthetic minerals include Dolomite, Quartz, Calcite, Barite and Stibnite. Note: this mineral contains Mercury Sulfide, which is relatively insoluble with a very low toxicity. Contrary to absurd articles about its toxicity, it is very safe to own and display. Yes, if you crush it and consume it or smoke it like crack, then you will likely experience adverse effects. As with any mineral, it is always prudent to wash one’s hands after handling.

The crystal system for Cinnabar is trigonal, often forming thick tabular crystals with modified faces, elongated rhombohedrons, six-pointed star-shaped twins and various other complex crystal forms. Also granular, in veins, encrusting, striated, twinned and massive.

Quality Cinnabar specimens are found in various localities, including China, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Ukraine and the USA (California, Nevada).

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