Saturday, January 8, 2011

Copper, the King of Metals!

In the past four or five years since I started making jewelry the price of silver has almost tripled. It's gone from around $11 an ounce to just over $30 an ounce. In fact, the price of copper is the new hot metal topic for the next year Jim Jubak on copper . This should make people appreciate the beauty (and cost) of the lowly metal: copper. So, here's a brief history of copper.

Copper might be rightly called the "king of all metals", not gold!
Briefly, the use of copper dates back at least 10,000 years and is found in different parts of the world. (The only other metals that may have been used earlier were gold and meteorite iron.) Archaeologists have found a copper pendant in the northern Iraq area that dates back to about 8700 B.C. Copper is an element (remember those Periodic Tables back in school?) and is one of the few metals to occur naturally as an "uncompounded metal" meaning that it's pure copper when mined (all this information is from Wikipedia). Mix it with zinc and you get brass. Mix with tin and you get bronze, as in the "Bronze Era" , ca. 3000 B.C., for those of us who remember a bit of ancient history. The mixture of copper and tin made a much stronger metal. Last bit of history: the Romans used lumps of copper as money. Julius Caesar made coins from a copper zinc alloy.

Interestingly enough, copper is also a trace metal essential for the health of all living things. By itself copper is either pink or peach colored. If it "oxydizes" it turns green when exposed to oxygen (like the green roofs and the Statue of Liberty). If exposed to sulfides it turns a reddish orange or brown color. The layer of oxydation usually protects the wearer from the bare copper underneath. I say "usually" because some people's body chemistry still can turn oxydized copper green, as in green ring marks on fingers. Others, including myself, can wear ear wires with no problems. (Oxydized copper follows the same process as in a previous blog entry on Tuesday, Jan. 4, "The Loss of Electrons" by Cat's Wire.

Because copper is very "soft" it has been a favorite of jewelers and artists for ages. The Starving Jewelry Artists use copper in many beautiful pieces. For instance: this oxydized cuff from TwiningVineDesigns

This "Tree of Life" pendant from Unearthen Designs

And if you have an urge to try working with copper yourself you could try this earring tutorial from Danagonia


mcstoneworks said...

I love the richness of copper. More people using copper, has been the upside of skyrocketing silver prices.

Copper is no longer the redheaded stepchild in the jewelry world. :)

Cat said...

Copper is beautiful in its original state, but I also love my enameled or plated copper - affordable AND beautiful.

Great examples!

Bonnie said...

Copper is a beautiful metal with lovely patina. I loved wearing in the '70's and am very happy to see it regaining popularity.

BeadSire said...

Fabulous information about copper, I've started playing with this medium last year (a bit late to the party) and really enjoying it.

galadryl said...

Super info, lovely examples, especially the cuff.

Erika Price said...

I'm just getting into working with copper, so this great post was very timely reading!

mclainjewelry said...

I love copper and what the artists you have featured have created with it! Actually copper has also seen an increase in price but is still affordable.