History of copper

Copper has been an essential material to man since prehistoric times. In fact, one of the major 'ages' or stages of human history is named after a copper alloy: bronze. Copper was the first metal used by man in any quantity. The earliest workers in copper soon found that it could be easily hammered into sheets and the sheets in turn worked into shapes which became more complex as their skill increased.

It was the copper metals which were used when a combination of strength and durability was required. The ability to resist corrosion ensured that copper, bronze and brass remained as both functional and decorative materials during the Middle Ages and the successive centuries through the Industrial Revolution and on to the present day.


Initial thing you should know

       What is copper looks like

Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a reddish-orange colour. 





       Copper through the age

Copper Age:  9000   ~    3500 BC

  • Copper is man's oldest metal, dating back more than 10,000 years. A copper pendant discovered in what is now in northern Iraq. The Egyptians used the ankh symbol to denote copper in their system of hieroglyphs. It also represented eternal life. Copper axes were manufactured by casting in the Balkans in the 4th millennium BC. The ancient Romans extracted copper ores on Cyprus. 




(Type of ancient Egyptian axe, on ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics)


Bronze Age:  3500   ~   1500 BC

  • In this time, where Bronze tools replaced all the other metal, including copper, due to its strength. And copper was smelted with tin to create bronze.



Iron   Age:    1500     ~   100 BC

  • Early Civilization was able to smelt iron with their previous knowledge of smelting copper.


Middle Ages and Beyond:  1447 ~ Today

·         The invention of printing in the 15th century increased the demand for copper because of the ease with which copper sheets could be engraved or etched for use as printing plates. At this time copper plates were adopted as the best means of engraving maps.  The first known maps printed from copper plates are two Italian editions, dated 1472, by the geographer Claudius Ptolemy.  


http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/20900/20909/cprpltprint_20909_lg.gif(Copper-plate printing machine) (http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/20900/20909/cprpltprint_20909_lg.gif)




(http://www.briarpress.org/?q=system/files/Sacred%20Harp%20Copper%20plate%20with%20page.jpg) (printed music on copper plate)

·         Coins were made out of copper:  1793


Pennies/coins were made from pure copper. They were made from 100% copper. This existed till 1857.

Then they were made from 

1857-1864 : 88% copper, 12% nickel 

1864-1942 and 1944-mid 1982 : 95% copper, 5% tin/zinc 

1943 : steel plated with zinc 

mid 1982-present : zinc plated with copper.




·         copper extraction from its ore: 1915


Copper extracted from ore classed as copper bearing (copper, copper-lead, and copper-zinc ores), and total production of copper from all sources in 1915. Considerable copper was recovered from old slag and ores not classed as copper ores. Most of the copper from Colorado is derived from ores classed as siliceous ores and lead ore.



·         Eight most abundant metal:  1987


Atkinson discovered that copper is the 8th most abundant metal in earth’s crust that it one of the few that can appear in a pure state.



·         Rising Price: 2003

There was an 11-day strike which caused the production-related bonuses to push the copper prices higher. This was over ten copper mine wage.



 UK Production

  • In the early 18th century Swansea was becoming a major copper centre and by 1860 was smelting about 90% of the world’s output. 


  • Copper and tin mining had begun in Cornwall in the early Bronze Age (approximately 2150 BC) and the copper production peaked in 1856 with 164,000 tons being produced.  Tin mining continued until 1998.  Neither tin nor copper are produced in Cornwall today. 


  • During the 19th century, Birmingham became the main centre for fabricating non-ferrous metals in Britain, a position that is still held.  Many major developments in the copper industry emanated from the Birmingham area. 




Today, modern society demands that data passes between people and organisations in milliseconds.  Large diameter submarine copper cables transfer signals between continents, while tiny copper wires transmit power and data to individual users.  Even wireless communications require copper cabling in masts and relay stations.

From the early days to modern times, copper cables and wire are the unsung heroes of the age of communication, which is a rapidly evolving industry.


Uses of Copper

The Statue of Liberty and other art objects are often made of copper materials because of their durability. Copper and copper alloys are used to transport electricity to and in our homes and businesses. Copper is the primary electrical conductor for appliances and electronics. It is used in durable and decorative applications such as copper roofing, door hardware, railings and decorative trim. It is used in our cars and airplanes and in our plumbing systems. During production of shaped copper materials, various other metals are added to give copper additional properties. These alloying elements add strength, ductility, durability, corrosion protection and other properties.  Copper is an important material for improving our quality of life.