It’s a mineral as recognizable as it is quintessential to the very fabric of modern life. But what is it? And where did it come from? More importantly, what makes this ore so important? Today we’ll explore the fascinating world of copper, from its societal significance to its artful impact.
Copper is a mineral that when freshly exposed showcases a pinkish-orange color, similar to the grand Sonoran sunset. As it happens, copper is one of the only metals that displays a range of colors besides grey or white. Over time, depending on the climate, copper will develop a beautiful green or nut-brown patina, making it useful for artists and architects alike. Unlike many other metals, copper is a native metal, meaning that it’s found in nature in its purest form. This means that it’s instantaneously useable, which lead to it’s applications being used as far back as 11,000 years ago.
As a matter of fact, copper is one of humankind’s oldest metals. It is believed to have originated on the island of Cyprus in Ancient Rome. To the Ancient Romans and Greeks, this was a sacred metal, thought to represent the goddesses Venus and Aphrodite. They also used lumps of copper ore as an important form of currency.
The very first North American copper mines were discovered in what is now the Great Lakes region of the United States. Many artifacts have been found in that region, including fish hooks, projectiles, awls, axes, and knives. New carbon dating shows that this mineral has been mined by Native Americans much earlier than once thought. Since about 9500 years ago, copper has been mined in North America, making Native Americans one of the first people to mine and use copper. In the Verde District of modern day Jerome, Arizona, Native Americans used copper minerals as a pigment for skin and dye.
Copper mining in Arizona has been a major industry since the 19th century. It’s first industrial copper mining operation was introduced in 1750's Ajo by the Spaniards. Silver mining started in the Globe-Miami district in 1874. The silver mines ceased operations in 1877, and soon after, copper production took off. Arizona has been a major producer since then, with an enormous 60% of the worlds copper coming from the state in 2007. Without copper mining, many of Arizona's small communities wouldn’t be where they are today.
Let’s not forget about art and architecture! The Macon City Auditorium in Macon, Georgia features the largest copper domed roof in the world. In Berlin, Germany resides the famous copper-domed Berlin Cathedral Church. Copper is used in artful applications such as jewelry, home decor, and even sculptures like the one-and-only Lady Liberty. Copper is found in abundance in the style and design of the Southwest. This region has produced many talented coppersmiths. Stop by the Pickle Barrel Trading Post today to browse our collection of fine copper art and decor!
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