A Few Words About Copper

By on February 17, 2010
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Copper is a heavy, chemical element found naturally in the earth and has a ‘soft’ hardness of 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, (talc is #1 as softest and hardest diamond is #10). Copper is almost indestructible and as such, artifacts and relics showing its use throughout the ages have survived, allowing modern man to track the development of civilization through more than 10,000 years!


Easily found in abundance, pre-historic man discovered the malleability of copper and used it to form simple weapons, tools and talismans. Some of coppers’ other historic roles include: being formed into statues and all forms of ritual and/or decorative art; used in the construction and protection of dwellings as roofs, gates and plumbing; shaped into eating and drinking vessels and utensils; used in thin sheets as a painter’s canvas and to protect the underside of ships from algae and parasites; used as trade barter and currency; and of course for personal and often functional ornamentation, copper and its early alloys of bronze and brass have been made into pieces of jewelry. (The following samples are from Morocco and can be seen at Epcot.)


The main property of copper that associates it with healing, is that copper is ‘biostatic’. This means that bacteria will not grow on its surface. The `ancients` realized this feature and made drinking vessels of copper to drink water from as a healing method. Modern man uses copper in garden sprays to dispel mildew and other bacteria from plants. Copper tubing is used in air conditioning units to prevent the spread of bacteria. Copper-impregnated fabrics have many uses as socks, uniforms and underwear for the sports industry; gauze bandages, wound products and textiles used in healthcare such as gowns, masks, towels, etc; household pillowcases, mattresses and carpeting; and for military and industrial clothing. Did you know that some hospitals use copper doorknobs to prevent the spread of germs? I realize now that what I though were just gorgeous older elevators, they were actually made using copper and brass as disease resistant decor! (This example is found in a building on Liberty Ave in Pittsburgh, PA.)


Copper is very important to the human body too. We all consume copper in the form of vegetable, nuts, dried beads, seafood and (thank goodness) chocolate! Copper is also present in the air we breathe and in the water we drink. A copper deficiency in a humans diet can be associated with many stomach diseases, chronic diarrhea and premature birth, as well as high cholesterol levels. So enjoy your chocolate dessert!

I’ll bet you have more copper in your personal home than you think (I know I do). One of coppers alloys is brass. Look around your home. Do you see brass andirons and tools near your fireplace or woodstove? How about any brass lamps, bells, a Grandfather or antique clock, a brass bed frame, silver plated flatware or tea set? Ok, now how about the construction of your home. Did you know that an average single-family house in the United States contains more than 400 pounds of copper? Think about the builder’s hardware, plumber’s brass fittings and goods and the electrical wire. Now look at all of your electronic devices (computers, game players, stereo) and regular appliances like the heat pump or furnace and AC unit, stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer, etc. Amazing when you think about this, isn’t it. (And I’m not even going to detail all of ways that copper is used within the transportation industry!)

Native or natural copper is a lovely pinkish color, however most of what we are familiar with has a reddish/orange/brown tone due to the fact that when copper is exposed to oxygen it develops a layer of tarnish. Copper also forms within several other minerals like chalcopyrite (fools gold), covellite, malachite and azurite. Copper is also the responsible color pigment for the mineral turquoise. Most copper findings produced today are polished, and most copper jewelry is coated with a lacquer both of which are temporary protection from tarnish. Copper will eventually turn a human’s skin green due to the reaction of the copper with the chemicals present in the human body.

This is a photo I took of a basket of malachite in various forms. The specimens in the center show copper inclusions.


All of the pictures included in this article are from my private collection. The following picture is of a piece of ‘flow’ from a copper mine in Arizona. When it was given to me, it was explained that as copper is smelted to remove all impurities, all types of ore emerge, such as silver, gold and platinum. Taken in the morning sunlight, this piece clearly shows all of those metals!


This copper ‘drip’ is part of my outdoors collection as it weighs about 5 pounds and has very sharp edges. It is a solidified ‘drip’ from a smelting vat. The `sheet` and freeform mass are just more of my copper collection.



The only serious way to release deadly chemicals such as arsenic from copper is by heating it. Therefore all copper cookware is coated with a protective shield and anyone who uses any type of heat when working with copper needs to work in an area with adequate ventilation as well as wear personal protection such as a respirator. My husband is a boilermaker who is occasionally in situations where deadly fumes are present; such as repairs in the copper mines of the SW United States, and all workers there are required to wear respiratory protection.

All of the above information and facts are scientifically proven and true. Now let’s look at some healing theories associated with copper.

Many different cultures through the ages have used copper as a healing agent. Most of these cures were based on the fact that copper is biostatic or an antibacterial material. Second only to silver, copper is the best conductor of both heat and electricity therefore it is presumable that it would also help to conduct the flow of oxygen, energy, blood and other bodily fluids.

Many people swear by the use of copper as an assistant with arthritic pain, however there is no scientific proof of this to date.

Based on scientific facts, it can be concluded that copper is a very important part of the human body and without it our entire circulatory and digestive systems suffer, and that copper peptides assist in cell regeneration that quickens wound healing.

I leave the rest up to your own individual judgment.

‘Stay Twisted!’



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  2. avatar

    Gail B.

    April 30, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks Dale. I just love the informative articles that you and others have included on the wire-sculpture website. This one is fascinating, and since I love working with copper wire (for knitting and crocheting jewelry), this makes me love it even more.

  3. avatar

    susan ivy

    May 3, 2010 at 7:13 am

    What a great article! Can you tell me what type of lacquer I can use that will produce the longest lasting shield for my copper jewelry? Is there a good way to clean copper once it tarnishes?

    • avatar


      May 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm

      Thanks Susan, I had fun writing it! Keeping in mind that any coating is temporary, a Krylon spray or Renaissance wax seems to work well – for a while. To clean copper jewelry (depending on if it contains stones, pearls, glass, etc.) folks have used a tumbler with success, as well as old-fashioned lemon juice & salt.

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  5. avatar

    CJ Robinson

    August 17, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I have long used copper. Refrigeration tubing is fairly inexpensive and makes great hammered bangles. I use a cheap electric toothbrush with a very soft brush and really crappy white paste toothpaste (like you get from the dollar store) to get tarnish off of both my silver and my copper. If the brush isn’t soft enough for my liking I use a medium grade sandpaper to shred it up a little and spread out the bristles.

  6. avatar

    Bell Wolaver

    November 29, 2012 at 4:18 am

    Thanks for all the help. I have been making silver & steel wire jewelry for a few years and am considering copper. I have one question though. Does copper harden as you work it? I am afraid it would be too soft to hold its shape otherwise. I am really interested as the price of silver is beyond my reach now.

    • avatar


      November 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      Hi Bell, yes, copper does harden a bit as you work, but taking a rawhide mallet to your work will harden it even more. I’ve heard about tumbling to harden wire too, but Santa hasn’t brought me my tumbler – yet…!

      Remember about Silver-filled wire – this stuff is 10% silver so it won’t chip or flake off like silver plate, and it’s 1/3 to 1/2 the price of sterling! I love this stuff. http://www.wire-sculpture.com/silver-filled-wire-1.html