Also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum, mercury was known to the ancient Chinese, Egyptians and Hindus and has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to about 1500 B. The word for alchemy in Hindu is
"Rasasiddhi", meaning "knowledge of mercury." They, as well as many others, believed that mercury was at the core of all metals. Alchemists once thought that gold, silver, copper, tin, lead and iron were all mixtures of mercury and other substances.
The symbol was also used for the swiftly-moving planet, Mercury. As one of the three primes, the symbol represented the life force or a state that could transcend death or the Earth.