Cinnabar (/ˈsɪnəbɑːr/) or cinnabarite (/sɪnəˈbɑːraɪt/ ), likely deriving from the Ancient Greek (kinnabari), is the bright scarlet to brick-red form of mercury(II) sulfide for refining elemental mercury , and is the historic source for the brilliant red or scarlet pigment termed vermilion and associated red mercury pigments.
Cinnabar generally occurs as a vein-filling mineral associated with recent volcanic activity. The mineral resembles quartz in symmetry and in its exhibiting birefringence. Cinnabar has a mean refractive index between 2.0 and 2.5, and a specific gravity of approximately 8.1. The color and properties derive from a structure that is a hexagonal crystalline lattice belonging to the trigonal crystal system , crystals that sometimes exhibit twinning.
Cinnabar has been used for its color since antiquity in the Near East -type cosmetic culture, and in China since as early as the Yangshao culture , where it was used in coloring stoneware.
Associated modern precautions for use and handling of cinnabar arise from the toxicity of the mercury component , which was recognized as early as ancient Rome.