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How is Copper used?

replica bronze age sword

The first copper objects were decorative - because copper is attractive and easy to shape into objects like earrings, rings, bracelets, combs and mirrors. Copper can be mixed with other metals to create alloys such as bronze (copper and tin) or brass (copper and zinc).

Bronze is harder than copper and was a very important discovery in prehistory because it allowed people to make tools with a harder edge. Archaeologists call the first metal using period the Bronze Age (in Britain from 2000BC to about 700BC)

From the 19th Copper was used for coating the hulls of ships, as well as for producing coins and military equipment. As an excellent electrical conductor, copper also began to be widely used in the development of electrical wiring.

Today we use copper to make pipes for water or gas and wire to conduct electricity. Copper wires and pipes can be shaped and soldered easily and this makes it very useful both industrially and in the home. It is very important in computer circuits. Saucepan bases are often made of copper because copper is a good conductor of heat but not easily corroded.

Bronze Tools

Bronze was a much harder metal than bother copper and tin.  It was very good for making tools and weapons. The earliest bronze artefacts in Britain were axes, daggers and awls.  Many of these early metal tools and weapons were never used or sharpened.  They seemed to be used as status symbols.

Bronze Jewellery

Bronze was also used for jewellery. Metal smiths in the Bronze Age (1000BC) developed a high level of skill in bronze working using twisting and forging methods in the production of wrist and neck jewellery called torques. This was to supply the increasing demand for jewellery and body adornment.



Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of Pat Comber

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