A soft, dense, red, native ore composed of mercuric sulfide. Cinnabar is widely distributed around the world and is most often found in veins near volcanic rocks or hot springs. It has been mined from the Spanish cliffs near Almadén for over 2000 years. Other deposits are found in Italy (Iudrio), Germany, Austria, Yugoslavia, China (Hunan, Kweichow), Turkestan, Mexico, Peru (Huancavelica) and the United States (Texas, California, Nevada). Cinnabar was finely ground for use as an artist pigment since antiquity. Red mercuric sulfide has been made made synthetically since at least the 8th century in Europe and possibly earlier in China. Synthetic mercuric sulfide is called vermilion. Due to impurities, vermilion was favored over ground cinnabar as a red pigment. When exposed to ultraviolet light, mercuric sulfide darkens as a portion changes from its normal red crystalline form to a black isomorph. This can result in splotchy discolorations.
Synonyms and Related Terms
red mercuric sulfide; Pigment Red 106; CI 77766; Zinnober (Deut.); Zinnoberersatz (Ned.); cinabrio (Esp.); cinabre (Fr.); cinabro (It.); cinábrio (Port.); cinnaber (Ned.); shinsha (Jap.); tan-sha (Chin.); sulfure de mercure (Fr.); Chinese vermilion; English vermilion; vermilion (synthetic pigment); red sulfuretted oxide of mercury; liver ore
Soluble in aqua regia. Unaffected by alkalis. Hexagonal crystal system. Perfect cleavage in three directions (60 and 120 degree angles). Ground cinnabar has uneven sized fractured particles and may contain quartz. Transmitted light color is cherry red.
Streak = scarlet. Fracture = subconchoidal to uneven. Luster = adamantine to dull.
|Mohs Hardness||2.0 - 2.5|
|Refractive Index||3.146; 2.819|
Hazards and Safety
Highly toxic by ingestion, inhalation and skin absorption.
Darkens in ultraviolet light.
° R.Gettens, R.Feller, W.Chase, "Vermilion and Cinnabar", Artists Pigments, Volume 2, A. Roy (ed.), Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1993. ° Mineralogy Database: Cinnabar
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