Price is per four of these unusual beads, beautifully cut. Each measures a large 14mm, drilled ready to thread.
Technically, Cinnabar is mercury sulfide – found near recent volcanic activity. Its name comes from Medieval Latin cinnabaris; Red lead. Because of its vivid red color, powdered cinnabar was used during ancient times for "war" and ceremonial face and body paint.
The toxicity of mercury and cinnabar was well known before 2000 B.C, when slaves and prisoners mining the ore died after three-years. However, the Chinese during the Song Dynasty, reduced the risk by using lacquer over the cinnabar carvings onto chests, candle sticks, snuff bottles and other ornaments.
Today, the toxic pigment is replaced by a resin-based polymer that looks the same as the pigmented lacquer. Most beads and jewelry sold as cinnabar now, consist of a carved wood base covered by layers of resin, and are totally harmless.