Cinnabar has been used since antiquity, including as a cosmetic in the Olmec culture, and in China since the Song dynasty coloring lacquerware. It has a bright red color that has caused people to use it as a pigment and carve it into jewelry for thousands of years.
It’s carving properties allowed the finest and most intricate work, but cinnabar was once called the Death Stone, for good reason: original cinnabar is an ore of mercury–a toxic mercury sulfide–that would slowly poison its owners. The Romans considered a sentence to the Spanish cinnabar mines of Almaden as a death sentence!
Modern cinnabar is a safe resin cast in molds taken directly off antique pieces, preserving the incredible workmanship and vibrant colors. Artisans the world over created an ethnically centered shape language unique to this material, and that language is preserved in the modern casts.