Facts about copper

Copper has been used by man from ancient civilizations until the present day, covering a period of over 10,000 years across the world. It isn’t one of the most popular metals that we process, but it does play an important part in modern society, with a few uses that are obvious to most of us, such as plumbing and electrical components, but also in a few more surprising ways!

Here are a few interesting facts about copper, from its history, through to more contemporary uses:

  • Gold and copper are the only metals on the periodic table whose colouring isn’t naturally silver or grey.
  • A copper awl is the oldest metal object unearthed to date in the Middle East and is thought to be around 7000 years old. Archaeologists discovered the cone-shaped awl in the grave of a woman who was probably around 40 when she died, the nature of the grave and its contents suggest that the woman was considered important.
  • Copper pipes forming part of a drainage system were found in a complex of funerary pyramids in Egypt, dating back around 4500 years. The overall condition of the complex was poor, but the copper piping was in remarkably good condition.
  • About 3000 BC prehistoric people discovered that it was easier to cast copper if a small quantity of tin was added to it, creating bronze. This new alloy was much stronger and versatile than copper and was used instead of stone to make weapons, tools and jewellery. The date of this discovery is different for various civilizations but was most probably made for the first time in Mesopotamia or Egypt. This discovery was so important to the development of civilisation that it led to the following era being named the Bronze Age, a period covering approximately 3300 to 1200 B.C
  • Wales has a long history of copper production, dating back over 4000 years to when miners began to exploit copper ores from deep open casts in central and northern Wales The copper resources from Wales were exported far and wide from the Bronze Age through to the Roman period.
  • Copper turns green because it oxidises when exposed to water and air. This reaction is the reason the copper-plated Statue of Liberty is a dull green rather than a shiny orange-red colour. According to the New York Historical Society, the colour change from copper to green occurred gradually and was complete by 1920, 34 years after the statue was dedicated and unveiled.
  • Copper is still used for many of the same purposes now as it was by ancient civilisations, including as currency, plumbing and drainage, roofing, cookware and decorative purposes such as jewellery.
  • More contemporary uses for copper exploit its excellent heat and electrical conductivity, for heat exchangers, electrical components and electrical cabling.
  • One of the more surprising properties of copper is that it is antimicrobial. This has been known for thousands of years and continues to be made use of today with many touch surfaces such as door knobs and hand rails in medical environments being made of copper, in order to reduce the spread of bacteria, viruses and yeasts.
  • According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), copper is the third-most-consumed industrial metal in the world, after iron and aluminium. Around three-quarters of that copper is used to make electrical wires, telecommunication cables and electronics.
  • Copper alloys have been developed for highly specialised applications, it is an easily moulded base metal often added to other metals to improve elasticity, flexibility, hardness, colour, and / or resistance to corrosion. For example, copper-nickel alloy is applied to the hulls of ships because it does not corrode in seawater, plus it also reduces the adhesion of marine life, such as barnacles, reducing drag and as a result increasing fuel efficiency.
  • Gold is one of the most commonly alloyed metals with copper. Lower carat golds have a wider range of colours than the higher carat golds, due to the addition of more alloying metals. Adding copper to gold makes it more red, whereas adding silver, zinc or other light coloured metals makes gold paler.
  • Copper is one of the most widely recycled of all metals; approximately one-third of all copper consumed worldwide is recycled. Copper is a permanent material, recycled copper and its alloys can be remelted and used or refined further without losing any physical or chemical properties.
Statue of Liberty, New York

Lady Liberty is made of copper roughly the same thickness as two pennies held together, around a steel frame.

Laser cut copper

Laser cutting copper presents its own set of challenges because it is both very conductive and reflective. Reflective surfaces can reduce the efficiency of the laser as it cuts. Heat conductivity, one of the most useful properties of copper, conducts the heat away from the cutting area, which can also reduce the efficiency of the laser as it cuts. Heat build-up around the cut zone can cause some discolouration to the copper too. Fortunately, as laser cutting specialists, we know how to factor in these properties and still produce great quality laser cut copper components.

We laser cut copper and the popular copper alloy, brass, from 0.9mm – 5mm thick.

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If you’ve enjoyed our facts about copper, you might be interested in these related articles:

Copper for hygiene

The hygienic benefits of copper and copper alloys such as brass and bronze have been known for a very long time. Research has found that copper-based alloy surfaces destroy a wide range of microbes and bacteria rapidly – often in under two hours.

Laser Cut Copper

C101 has high ductility and impact strength, it also benefits from being highly conductive of heat and electricity. C101 offers good to high corrosion resistance in most environments and is excellent for soldering. It is non-magnetic, resistant to bio-fouling and machines well.

Laser cut brass

Laser cut brass sheet provides a good edge quality, clean and ready for secondary processes such as welding. The weldability of the alloy is excellent when soldering or brazing and oxyacetylene welding is also good.

Fast Quotes

Accurate price, reliable lead time, no hidden extras

To get a competitive price for your next laser cut copper components, don’t hesitate to contact us. We aim to answer quotes sent between 7.30am and 4pm within one hour. Outside these hours we will respond the next working morning.

We accept DXF, DWG and NC files, please send information about which material, thickness and quantities you require.

Please note: We are unable to provide quotes or prices over the phone, please email us your requirements and we will respond as quickly as possible.

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