Copper is a beautiful and fascinating metal. Number 29 on the periodic table, its name means ‘from the island of Cyprus’ which was renowned in ancient times for its copper mines. If you want to know more fascinating facts about this very unique and useful metal, read on!
The eternal metal
Copper use dates back at least 10,000 years and was the first metal used by Man because it is easy to identify and extract. The Egyptian ‘ankh’ symbol signifies both copper and eternal life, while the pyramids used copper pipe fittings for plumbing!
Essential for nutrition
Consuming copper in our diet is essential for the formation of healthy blood cells. Leafy greens, potatoes and beans are all high in this essential mineral.
Copper isn’t just pretty, it is also essential for modern life. In fact, we will each consume 1500 pounds of it in our computers, cars and smartphones. Even blue jeans often use copper rivets because they are very strong but light in weight.
In terms of industrial use, copper ranks third behind iron and aluminium. It is essential for a diversity of organisations, ranging from plumbing firms like Watkins and Powis to the Bank of England for coinage.
If you have ever wondered why brass is such a popular material for doorknobs and handles, it is because this copper alloy can prevent the transmission of disease on frequent touch surfaces. It’s also popular in shipbuilding because it is poisonous to invertebrates like barnacles and mussels (Charles Darwin’s ship, HMS Beagle had a copper hull).
Copper may have many practical uses but it is also highly decorative. The oldest copper jewellery found so far dates back to 8,700 BC and the metal was also used for mirrors, armour, razors, clothes fasteners and of course for cooking food – the world’s oldest copper frying pan dates back ten centuries.
Copper quickly weathers to produce Verdigris – mostly copper carbonate which is inert and protects the copper from further corrosion. It also gives copper roofs that characteristic green-blue patina.
Clue to a treasure
One of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1952 was made from super durable copper. Bearing no biblical passages, this scroll is said to hold clues to the location of a long undiscovered hoard of treasure that could be worth as much as one billion pounds.