Copper has a longer history than most of us realize. This beautiful metal has been prized for a wide variety of items for thousands of years. And that versatility continues today, keeping copper a popular choice in the modern world.
Copper is a soft, malleable metal that was mined long before silver or gold. The majority of it is found in volcanic rock. There are some naturally occurring chemical reactions that can release native copper from the rocks in which it is embedded.
Around 8000 BC, a way to extract pure copper from ore known as smelting was discovered. This technique not only led to an increase in refined copper, smelting also allowed for the creation of copper alloys. The best example of these alloys is bronze, which is copper with tin added to it. Bronze was a metal which was harder then either copper or tin, making it of great value.
Today copper is the third most used metal, behind iron and aluminum. What is known about ways it can be used, however, extends beyond what the ancient world was aware of. Copper is a good conductor of both heat and electricity, making it useful as wiring. And the human body requires copper for functioning. Its presence is crucial for the formation of red blood cells.
A surprising trait of the metal is allowing for its use in some unexpected ways today. Copper has been found to have anti-microbial properties. Due to this factor, copper thread is woven into fabric for socks to fight bacteria and the growth of fungus. And hospitals are covering surfaces such as bed rails and patient call buttons with copper and copper alloys to see if doing so will slow the spread of infections.
Along with all of its versatility, copper has been and still is prized for making fine jewelry. The beauty of its sheen and its malleability make it a metal many artists enjoy working with. With as many ways as it can be used, it’s likely that copper will be a valuable commodity for a long time to come.