Cinnabar from Fenghuang, Hunan Province, China


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a specimen of Cinnabar from Fenghuang, Hunan Province, China in a 5cm x 4cm plastic presentation box.

Mineral Group  sulphide
Composition  HgS
Origin  Fenghuang, Hunan Province, China
Cinnabar was recovered by ancient Greeks as early as the 7th century BC in southern Spain, especially around Almaden. In those days they used it mainly as a red pigment and called it kinnabari (this gave the mineral its name). But the Romans found it was a source of `quicksilver’ (mercury). They learned how to make an excellent black paint from it. Cinnabar, therefore, was an important mineral. The alchemists of the Middle Ages believed that gold could be recovered from it.
Cinnabar forms finely grained to compact, massive or earthy aggregates and crusts, and sometimes crystals. It occurs most frequently in separate ore veins. Apart from Almaden, which even today is one of the largest sources of mercury in the world, there are other well-known sources in Tuscany (Italy), at Ayala near Belgrade (Serbia), and in California (USA). The largest crystals of cinnabar were found in the Chinese province of Hu-nan; crystals and beautiful twins up to 4.5 cm in size are found in the Wan-shankhang deposit. Cinnabar is the chief ore of mercury, of which it contains 86 per cent. Mercury is very important in medicine and in the manufacture of ammunition. Less significant today is its use for working valuable metals, particularly in the extraction of silver and gold from ores and in the manufacture of paints. It is worth noting that the consumption of mercury has not risen during the last few decades, for in some instances, such as in the manufacture of mirrors, less expensive substances are used.