Cinnabar has a long rich history of being used for decorative purposes. The mineral is usually a scarlet, dark red and burgundy hue and has been found around the world. It is important to note that this unique mineral is a common form of mercury. Cinnabar has a rich history and continues to be sought after for its embellishing purposes. Below, we will discuss the most interesting facts about Cinnabar and its properties.

History of Cinnabar

burgundy Cinnabar crystal

According to archaeologists, Cinnabar has a long storied history. It has been discovered to have been used in prehistoric time. Evidence found on wall paintings on a Neolithic site in Turkey shows that Cinnabar had been ground down and used as vermillion red paint as early as 7000 B.C. After this incredible discovery, archaeologists were shocked to make an even more startling discovery. Burial sites in La Pijotilla and Montelirio and flint mines in the Iberian peninsula suggested the use of the bright red mineral as a pigment as early as 5300 B.C.

The prehistoric use of Cinnabar has also been discovered in investigations of the Yangshao culture in China around 4000 B.C. This ancient culture is said to have used the mineral in rituals by coating walls and floors.

Cinnabar Uses


Throughout Cinnabar’s long and storied history, the mineral has had varied uses. Besides the uses of vermillion red paint and coatings as discussed above, this mineral has also been used as an expensive pigment by wealthy Romans. Several historical sites of the Roman empire have tested positive for the mineral. Experts suggest that the Romans probably choose to the use this mineral as a pigment because of the rich color. It was commonly ground up quickly after being mined and mixed with water to make a rich pigment paint.


Of all of the varied uses, one of the most dangerous uses was as a medication. After all, Cinnabar is one of the common forms of Mercury, which poses several health risks. These risks will be discussed later, but they undoubtedly affected the lives of these civilizations that used the mineral for many purposes.

Cinnabar has been cited as an important ingredient in ancient Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine. It was a normal practice to have patients ingest the mineral as a medication or as part of a healing ritual. Present day science has since discovered that ingesting mercury in any form can cause deadly consequences and is toxic to the major organs in the human body. Despite the warning, we can still find Cinnabar as a common ingredient in some traditional Chinese medicines. Zhu-Sha-An-Shen-Wan is a form of this type of medicine and is said to treat insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Those that follow ancient Chinese medicine believe in the effectiveness and take it, despite the known negative side effects.

Another dangerous historical use of this mineral was using the powdered form as a rich rouge. It has also been discovered to be used to produce a red lacquer for creating plates and other handcrafted wares. These practices have gone away as the world learned of the dangers.

Nowadays, any product labeled Cinnabar has been made with nontoxic imitation materials, or at least less toxic materials. However, buyer beware; some antique cinnabar products could still contain the toxic mineral.

Properties of Cinnabar

unpolished cinnabar

This toxic mercury sulfide mineral is the only important ore of mercury. As a hydrothermal mineral, it is commonly mined around areas that experience volcanic activity or have alkaline water springs. Cinnabar is created as it moves through fractured rocks via the hot water and vapors escaping through the cracks. It is usually found as a coating on these rocks, but can also be found as a deposit in the sediment. Despite contrary belief, this mineral is very rarely found as a well-formed crystal.

Cinnabar is most well known for its rich red color. This beautiful color has made it a popular mineral for pigments and jewelry throughout history. While Cinnabar can pose a threat due to its mercury content, modern day jewelers have adopted a process that replaces the toxic materials with imitation materials. It does not affect the quality and the finished product is still beautiful.

Cinnabar belongs to the trigonal crystal system and the trapezohedral crystal class. As stated above, it is normally found in a granular or encrusted state. It rarely breaks habit but it is possible for it to form rhombohedral form. In its natural state, it can appear red, brownish-red and even gray.

There are instances of this mineral appearing to resemble quartz, as far as symmetry goes. It also has the highest refractive index out of all the minerals in existence. Cinnabar is definitely one of the most unique minerals in existence.

Metaphysical Details About Cinnabar

multiple cinnabar stones featuring flower carvings

The word Cinnabar is derived from the Persian word for “dragon’s blood.” Therefore, it is commonly referred to as this in Japanese folklore. Throughout history, it has been regarded as a mystical powder because of it forming out of volcanic or alkaline spring activity. It is basically made from the core of the Earth and its red color represents the burning embers of the fire that it is forged from.

Some believe that this mineral causes destruction. However, other historical records show that it was once believed that it had the power to open up opportunities and stop negativity from happening.

At the present time, crystal experts call it the “magician stone”. Some believe that it can align a mortal’s will with that the divine will. Some use the crystal as a way to manifest rewards or positive experiences into their lives.

Where to Find Cinnabar Today

While Cinnabar has been found and mined around the world, it is normally limited to areas that have recently witnessed volcanic activity or areas that have alkaline water springs. However, as the most common form of mercury, it can be found anywhere that mercury is found. Some of the most notable locations are scattered throughout every part of the world and include Puerto Princesa in the Philippines, Almaden in Spain, several locations in California, Arkansas and Texas.

Cinnabar has a rich and interesting history and an equally intriguing present. While some believe that it holds special powers, there is no denying the dangers it once plagued the world with. Regardless of the fact that the cinnabar used today contains imitated materials, it is still one of the most interesting and beautiful minerals in existence. Have you ever seen cinnabar? Share your opinion with us in the comments below.