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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cinnabar: Get the Look without the Liability

According to minerals-n-more.com: "The word 'cinnabar' comes from the Persian for 'dragon's blood'. Cinnabar was mined by the Roman Empire for its mercury content and it has been the main ore of mercury throughout the centuries." Pure cinnabar is a gorgeous vermillion red. Even if it is impure -- brownish red, cinnamon, or brick red -- the color is still striking.

Dragon's Blood *
Cool name. Cool color. What's not cool is what happened to the people who mined or worked with cinnabar historically. Notice the words "mercury content" above. Mercury is toxic to human skin. Exposure causes tremors that progress to extreme mood changes, loss of hearing, restricted vision, and severe mental derangement. Damage may also occur to the liver and kidneys.

According to the Dartmouth University Toxic Metals program, "The Romans used their mercury mines as penal institutions for criminals, slaves, and other undesirables. The warders were among the first to recognize that there was a high likelihood that the prisoners would become poisoned and spare the keepers the need for formal executions." Nice.

So while mixing red mercury ore with an equal amount of burning sulphur does create a fabulous shade of red paint, the cinnabar in my jewelry was made a different way (for which you should be grateful)!

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These days what we call cinnabar is actually a heavy molded polymer made to resemble cinnabar beads, or the red lacquered wood from the cinnabar tree which also grows in Southeast Asia.

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Isn't it great to know that when you wear my my cinnabar creations, you'll not only be beautiful -- you'll stay alive! Always a plus in my book.

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* "Dragon's blood (Daemomorops draco)" by Andy Dingley - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dragon%27s_blood_(Daemomorops_draco).jpg#/media/File:Dragon%27s_blood_(Daemomorops_draco).jpg

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