MINING: Quicksilver Renaissance

A most sinister and most beneficent metal is quicksilver, whose properties mystified men for 4,000 years. A deadly poison in some forms, it was once mined chiefly by slaves, convicts, syphilitics. It is used in the making of felt hats, anti-barnacle marine paint, medications, many another product. Without its uniform sensitivity good thermometers would be costly and rare. Its hypersensitive crystals (mercury fulminate) have detonated most of the world's bombs.

Eighty-five percent of the world's productive veins of quicksilver ore (cinnabar) lie in Spain and Italy. The great Spanish mine of Almaden,...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!