Cinnabar and Jet #2
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History of Minerals
Ochres are among the earliest pigments used by mankind. They were also used as medicine, and body decoration among the Egyptians and Chumash. Aboriginal Australians used them in cave painting, bark painting, and in the preservation of animal skins. The Maori mixed them with fish oil to color the large waka taua – war canoe. Carvings of Ochre show up in the Blombos cave in South Africa- dating back to around 75,000 years ago, and again marking an unfinished obelisk in the northern region of the Aswan Stone Quarry. Ochre was the most commonly used material for painting walls in the ancient Mediterranean world. The Gold Ochre above is non toxic and is made from the ochre clay that is mined from the ground and then washed in order to separate the sand. The remaining ochre is then dried in the sand and sometimes burned to enhance the natural color. Mineralogically, Gold Ochre is called limonite and is a chemical composition of hydrated iron oxide.
Jet, the origin of the common phrase ‘Jet Black’ – now coming to mean the deepest of blacks, is considered to be a minor gemstone. Jet is the result of high pressure decompostion of wood from millions of years ago, commonly the wood of trees of the family Araucariaceae. Jet can either be soft or hard depending on the salt content of the water at the time of carbon compression. Jet, historically has been used as a gemstone, dating back to a jewelry piece found in Asturias, Spain in 17,000 BC. In the Roman period, amulets and pendants of Jet were considered magical because of its protective qualities. The micorstructure of jet, which strongly resembles the original wood, can be seen under 120x or greater magnification.
Cinnabar is generally found in a massive, granular or earthy form and is bright scarlet to brick-red in color. Generally cinnabar occurs as a vein-filling mineral associated with recent volcanic activity and alkaline hot springs. Cinnabar is deposited by epithermal ascending aqueous solutions far removed from their igneous source. Cinnabar is still being deposited at the present day from the hot waters of Sulphur Bank Mine in California and Steamboat Springs, Nevada.
Cinnabar has been mined since the Neolithic age. Ancient people of South America often used cinnabar for art, or precessed it into refined mercury (as a means to gild silver and gold to objects.) Cinnabar has been used as a decorative color since the Olmec culture and was often used in the Mayan civilization. During the Roman Empire it was mined both as a pigment and for its mercury content.
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