Russian Gemstones Encyclopedia

Vladimir Bukanov. Russian Gemstones Encyclopedia



CINNABAR (Zinnabarit—Cinabre— иноварь) Theophrastus (372-287 B.C.) from Gk. kinnabaris – the ancient name for the mineral; possibly from Arabic “zinjafr” or Pers. “zinjifrah”, dragon’s blood, probably alluding to its color.

Composition & Properties. Sulfide of non-metallic type – HgS, trigonal system. Hardness 2-2.5. Density 8-8.2. Diamond luster to metal one. Cleavage in one direction. Fragile. Cinnabar is found in the shape of isometric crystals, sometimes thick-table crystals, but most of all in grained aggregates. Color: bright red, brown-red, brown to black. Translucent to non-transparent. Cinnabar is not classified as a gemstone because of its low hardness, but as a coloring pigment it has been used in Chine since 210 B.C. However, it is represented as inclusions in gemstones and rocks. These are: opal with cinnabar – vermilite, quartz with cinnabar – myrickite, as well as chalcedony, dolomite and calcite; and among rocks with cinnabar there are: listwanite, liparite and others.

Deposits. Cinnabar is a typical mineral of hydrothermal veins and metasomatic ores. In Russia, in Altai, findings of cinnabar in silicified dolomites, were registered in the Aktash deposit, at the Kurai Ridge; in East Transbaikalia – at deposits of the Nerchinskiy Dist.; in the north of Kamchatka Penin. – in localities of the Tamvatneyskiy massif. In the Ukraine, in the Donetsk Region, well-formed crystals of cinnabar up to 2.5 cm. are extracted at the Nikitovka deposit. In Tadzhikistan, it is found at the Dzhizhikrut deposit in the form of inclusions in crystals of calcite. In Kyrgyzstan, at the deposits Khaydarken and Chauvai, they discovered transparent crystals of cinnabar up to 4 cm. in cross-section. In Uzbekistan, at the Karasu deposit, Mal’guzar Mts., near Toshkent (Tashkent), twins of cinnabar up to 5 cm. were found. In other countries, findings of crystals cinnabar up to 8 cm. are known in Austria, at the Erzberg deposit, Styria; in Slovenia – at the Idrija (Idria) deposit; in Spain, at the Almaden deposit, Ciudad Real Prov., where they found crystals up to 2 cm. The best crystals up to 6 cm. and more come to the market from different provinces of China. The most important occurrences of larges crystals cinnabar occur in Guizhou Prov. – at deposits Molopin, Tongren, Wan-Shan-Chang, and Duyun; in Hunan Prov. – at Feng Hua, near Tha Tien; also in Yunnan Prov. with crystals up to 6 cm. at the Tsar Tien mine. In the U.S.A., cinnabar available for faceting is extracted in Oregon, in Douglas Co.; in California – at the New Almaden deposit; and in Texas – in the Terlingua. In Nevada, excellent cinnabar crystals up to 3 cm. occur at the Cahill mine, Humboldt Co.; crystals up to 3 cm. near Lovelock, Pershing Co. and others.

Ornamental rocks. Rock with cinnabar – cinnabar matrix – can be classified as an ornamental stone. On Kamchatka Penin., at the Tamvatney deposit, cinnabar is represented in the composition of silification list-wanites; on the Chukchi Penin. – in the composition of quartzites and linarite of the Plamennoye deposit; and in Rep. of Tyva – in the composition of sandstones of the Terligkhaiskiy ore center. In the Ukraine, in Donetsk Region, quartzites with inclusions of cinnabar are known at the Nikitovka deposit, and at the Borkut deposit they described diorite porphyrites with cinnabar. In Kyrgyzstan, at the Chonksoy deposit, list-wanites are enriched with cinnabar. In Kazakhstan, at the Khaidarakan deposit, calcareous-quartz breccia is enriched with cinnabar, and at the Chagan Uzun deposit – limestone with cinnabar. In Tadzhikistan, similar rocks of the Dzhizhikrut deposit are brecciated limestones and barytocalcite with cinnabar.
Synonyms. Merkur blende | Ball ore | Coral ore.

Treatment. In the Priasovje territorz cinnabar has been extracted before A.D. According Herodot, red paint was received from it by Greeks. The Scythian name of the paint – “cannabis” – was close to its Greek name cinnabar – kinnabaris. It’s possible to assume that cinnabar is a word of the Scythian origin. For collection purposes cinnabar is sometimes faceted; they receive gems up to 3 ct. In the Museum of Calgary, Canada, there is such stone from Mexico in 2.68 ct. Gemstones and rocks with inclusions of cinnabar are cut in cabochon or used in stone carving. In China, cinnabar is added into varnishes as a coloring pigment for painting on caskets and other souvenirs.

Similarity. Cinnabar looks like hematite, cuprite, proustite, and rutile.