By Sandy Paluzzi
Cinnabar is an ancient, bright red mineral primarily made of mercuric sulfide. Of course, the mercury in cinnabar makes it hazardous to your health. The dangers of cinnabar have been known for millennia. Slaves and prisoners were assigned the task of mining cinnabar by the Holy Roman Empire. The average lifespan of someone mining the cinnabar was 3 years. More dangerous than mining it was working with it in the ovens. Workers there tended to last no more than 6 months.
Today cinnabar is itself no longer used in jewelry making. Although we often find carved 'cinnabar' beads for sale. These beads are fakes.
The higher quality imitation cinnabar is made from the pigment of a lac tree found in China. It is dyed to obtain the bright red color. Since the imitation cinnabar is dyed, the Chinese no longer stick strictly to the natural color of red. Instead, you can find white, black, green and blue imitation cinnabar beads. Still, red is the norm.
While it is not as common or as desirable as the lac cinnabar, some cinnabar is simply carved wood painted with a red lacquer.
Today's 'cinnabar' is a case where imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery. The imitations are safe to make and to wear. You can safely have an age-old look at a modern price.
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