Chicken-Blood Stone Value, Price, and Jewelry Information


chicken-blood stone statue
Natural, Chinese chicken-blood stone statue with flower. Image courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Quan Rong Gallery.

One of the most prized ornamental materials in China, chicken-blood stone has been used for centuries to create carvings with characteristic red markings. However, its physical properties can vary considerably.

Chicken-Blood Stone Value

As with other ornamental objects, chicken-blood stone’s value is based primarily on artistry and workmanship. You should also take into consideration any antique value. For more information, consult our article on grading gem carvings.

chicken-blood stone seal
Chicken-blood stone seal. © International Gem Society.

The International Gem Society (IGS) has a list of businesses offering gemstone appraisal services.

Chicken-Blood Stone Information

DataValue
NameChicken-Blood Stone
Crystallography Aggregate.
Refractive Index 1.54-3.2
Colors Red, black, white, yellow, green, blue, gray, and purple. See “Identifying Characteristics” below.
Luster Pearly to sub-adamantine.
Hardness 2 - 7
Specific Gravity Highly variable, with the components ranging from 2.6 to 8.09
Cleavage None
Heat SensitivityYes
Wearability Display Only
Enhancements None
Special Care InstructionsAvoid rough handling
Transparency Opaque to translucent.
FormulaA mixture of clay, quartz (SiO2), and cinnabar (HgS).
Pleochroism None.
Optics 1.54 to 3.2 (varies with composition)
EtymologyNamed after the appearance of this material’s “blood red” spots and streaks. Also known as Changhua and Balinyouqi stone after the source locations.
chicken-blood stone carving
Chicken-blood stone carving. © International Gem Society.

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In China, the color red traditionally symbolizes good luck. Thus, the Chinese often give red seals made from chicken-blood stone to celebrate weddings, birthdays, promotions, and other successes. Although jade, both jadeite and nephrite, is also highly prized (and its folklore more well known in the West), chicken-blood stone is popularly considered a more powerful talisman against evil.

Chicken-blood stone is actually a rock, or mix of minerals, used as a gem material. This fine-grained mixture consists of clay (dickite and kaolinite) and quartz, with varying amounts of cinnabar. The cinnabar content gives this material its red spots, streaks, and patterns. Although the quartz content has a high hardness of 7, clay and cinnabar have very low hardness (2-2.5). This variation makes working with this material quite challenging.

Set of natural, Chinese chicken-blood stone statues. Images courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Quan Rong Gallery.

Identifying Characteristics

Chicken-blood stones are so called due to their bright red splashes of color, which looks like fresh chicken blood. This material has eight basic colors, which blend or combine in different layers: red, black, white, yellow, green, blue, gray, and purple. Some specimens may be entirely red. The translucent body colors of the base rock, known as dong, can be white, yellow, or gray.

Please note that the gem known as bloodstone, with green body color and blood red spots, is a type of chalcedony. It represents a distinct gem material with different physical and optical properties. Iron oxides create its red to orange spots.

Another chalcedony variety, myrickite, has red spots and layers actually colored by cinnabar. Nevertheless, it’s still distinct from chicken-blood stone.

myrickite could be confused with chicken-blood stone
Myrickite slab, 2012 Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. Photo by Simeon87. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

Synthetics

Like other gemstones in high demand with strong symbolic associations, chicken-blood stones have inspired imitations or simulants. For example, seals sold to tourists as genuine chicken-blood stone objects turned out to be steatite (talc) cores coated in yellow-brown plastic with red streaks. Other imitations include pieces with various red coatings, materials glued to natural pieces of cinnabar, and reconstituted materials with added red lead paint.

Sources

Only two known locations, both in China, produce chicken-blood stones: Changhua, Zhejiang Province and Balinyouqi, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Qing dynasty chicken-blood stone seal
Qing Dynasty chicken-blood stone seal, 19th century, China. (Note the translucence of the yellow base rock or dong). 6.9 cm x 2.1 cm x 2.1 cm. Purchase, Funds from various donors and Gift of Paul E. Manheim, by exchange, 2007. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Public Domain.

Care

As jewelry, chicken-blood stones earn the “Display Only” grade for wearability. Reserve this material for display or decorative purposes only. Furthermore, store or display any chicken-blood stones away from sunlight, since cinnabar tends to turn brown when exposed to sunlight. Any change in an object’s prized red color will lower its value and appeal.

The cinnabar in chicken-blood stones contains highly toxic mercury. Take care when cutting this material. Avoid inhaling dust or fumes and wash your hands after working with it. Read our article on lapidary safety for more recommendations. However, handling finished pieces should pose no health risks.

Clean only with a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water. See our jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.

chicken-blood stone carving - browning
© International Gem Society.