Copper is a marvelous metal, one of the few that is not naturally silver or grey in color. The first known human use of copper was around 8000 BC—and it was first "smelted" (that is, heated and leached out of an ore) around 5000 BC. In 3500 BC, copper was the first metal to be alloyed with another, that is, blended with tin to produce bronze. Some 2000 years ago, the Romans mined copper in Cyprus, calling it "the metal of Cyprus"; in time, this name was corrupted and Anglicized into the common word we know today.
Copper is unusual in that it can be used immediately in its pure, natural form. It is soft, making it easy to melt and manipulate—by casting, pressing or hammering—and it also conducts heat and electricity well, which makes it useful in practical applications. The chemical "salts" found in (and with) copper are the same chemicals which give distinctive colors to malachite, turquoise and azurite (used, in turn, to make pigments). And, because copper is inhospitable to organic lifeforms—like bacterias—it is often used for water pipes and anti-bacterial surfaces. Shipbuilders have used copper to clad the hulls of boats in order to discourage barnacle growth. And copper has been found to actually kill certain bacterias. Alas, folk medicine uses—like copper bracelets and compression garments—have not been found to be scientifically effective. Each adult human has about seven ounces of the metal in his or her body—mostly in the bones, muscles and liver.
Copper can be recycled with little degradation to the element—and used over and over again. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of the copper ever mined is still in-use today.
When copper is mixed with zinc, brass is the result. Bronze is the alloy of copper and tin. Even precious metals, like silver and gold, can be hardened with copper (which makes rose gold).
Copper is one of the favorite materials of Arts & Crafts designers and artisans. Its warm coloration provides a natural richness and compliments a wide variety of other natural materials. And the fact that it can be physically manipulated rather easily, makes it a favorite of craftsmen. When copper oxidizes, it develops a dark, nut brown color—also very attractive. And when copper oxidizes out-of-doors, it can develop a green verdigris patination.
The English Arts & Crafts photo frame, shown above, is fashioned of hand-beaten copper. A mustache floats at the top while semi-spherical "bosses" surround the photo image. Textural striations give the surface a skin or bark-like appearance. Click on the photo above to learn more about it.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248