We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is Copper?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Copper is a reddish brown nonferrous mineral which has been used for thousands of years by many cultures. The metal is closely related with silver and gold, with many properties being shared among these metals. Modern life has a number of applications for copper, ranging from coins to pigments, and demand for the metal remains high, especially in industrialized nations. Many consumers interact with it in various forms on a daily basis.

Archaeological evidence suggests that copper is among the earliest metals used by humans. Numerous digs all over the world indicate that it was used to make utensils, jewelry, and weapons. The metal is highly ductile, meaning that it can be easily worked and pulled into wire. For cultures which had minimal or crude metalworking abilities, it would have been easy to shape and work with. It is also easy to alloy, and many of the early metal alloys featured this metal.

The name for the metal comes from Kyprios, the Ancient Greek name for Cyprus, an island which had highly productive copper mines in the Ancient world. Its atomic number is 29, placing it among the transition metals. The metal is highly conductive of both electricity and heat, and many of its uses take advantage of this quality. Copper can be found in numerous electronics and in wiring. It is also used to make cooking pots. This metal is also relatively corrosion resistant, since it forms a patina which resists oxidation. For this reason, it's often mixed with other metals to form alloys such as bronze and brass.

In addition to being useful in manufacturing, copper is also a vital dietary nutrient, although only small amounts of the metal are needed for well-being. It appears in several enzymes, facilitates the absorption of iron, and helps to transmit electrical signals in the body. In high doses, however, the metal can be extremely toxic. Copper can also saturate the water and soil, posing risks to wildlife. On a more benign level, it can stain clothing and flesh, as many people have probably noticed.

In a natural state, copper is rarely found pure. It is compounded with other elements, and the material must be treated before it can be sold. This can lead to serious environmental problems, especially when mining companies engage in unsound practices. The chemicals used to extract the metal can be toxic, as can the discarded elements and runoff associated with its purification. Many countries attempt to regulate their copper industries to prevent widespread pollution and the problems associated with it.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Emilski — On Oct 16, 2012
@JimmyT - That is quite an interesting story, and I wish that I had a job like that! It seems that if companies are willing to pay people decent money to sit and make sure copper does not get stolen that it is invaluable to them and their ventures.

I will say though that it does not seem your case is too unique. Even though the amount of copper there is at your job is worth a lot, I know that there are security guards hired as night watchmen to simply make sure no one breaks into buildings to steal the copper wiring.

That being said, why is it that copper is so valuable and is it possible that copper is used as monetary exchange in other countries due to its value?

By JimmyT — On Oct 16, 2012

@stl156 - I recently was transferred from my security job that required a lot of responsibility to another site where a company was putting up an electrical line. The reason for having security at this site was because of the amount of copper that was located at the site in order to put into the electrical line.

When I got to work I was told that I only had one job, watch the copper and make sure it does not get stolen. This was coming from a job in which I had a mountain of responsibility and not only did I have fewer duties, I got nearly a three dollar an hour raise!

Although this may seem silly to some, this copper, which was kept in the bed of a dump truck, was worth a couple hundred thousand dollars and was even more valuable to the company putting up the electrical line, because of what they needed the copper for.

By stl156 — On Oct 16, 2012

I have always wondered exactly what copper was used for and why it was so valuable. I know that there have been many problems in my town concerning theft of copper wiring from people's houses, but I guess since the demand for copper is so high that it would cause some people to risk getting arrested.

I really never understood why there has always been such a problem though about stealing copper, as I always saw it as simply a metal that is only worth slightly more than aluminum. It is not like it is a precious metal like gold or silver.

By StarJo — On Oct 15, 2012

Pennies used to have a much higher copper content than they do today. However, they are still made of copper alloys.

I associate copper with the smell of a penny. After I've handled one, my hands have that distinct metallic smell.

By cloudel — On Oct 14, 2012

@shell4life – I wish I could get my hands on some free copper wire! I had to buy mine, and I use it as snail repellent around my strawberry garden.

I read that if a snail crosses a copper wire, it will give his body a shock. So, snails tend to stay away from copper.

I had been having issues with snails eating my berries, so I thought this would be a wonderful idea. I surrounded my garden with the copper, and I secured it with nails here and there. As long as I keep the grass from growing over it, it should continue to work.

By shell4life — On Oct 13, 2012

My husband was excited to find a bunch of copper wire while he was working on a demolition crew tearing down an old house. The workers were told they could keep whatever they found.

He told me that if he were to buy copper wire, it would be expensive. He gathered as much as he could find, and he has it stored in his shop.

By healthy4life — On Oct 13, 2012
My artistic friend does copper etching. She uses a clean sheet of copper and some acid to do her work.

It results in some very cool, old-looking designs. They remind me of the old sienna toned photos.

Anyone who loves antiques or has old-fashioned décor in their home would love these copper etchings. They look like they were made over a hundred years ago!

By anon176576 — On May 16, 2011

Does it also come in powdered form?

By anon174770 — On May 11, 2011

What treatments can be done to copper to make it harder?

By anon156060 — On Feb 25, 2011

where is copper found mostly?

By Homfrog — On Dec 02, 2010

The strength of copper would vary based on how it's shaped. In rolled form, copper has a tensile strength of 32,000 psi.

By anon116292 — On Oct 06, 2010

pretty strong. it's used for pipes, in jewelery, roofing and wiring.

By anon71765 — On Mar 19, 2010

can you use copper to decorate books?

By anon65200 — On Feb 11, 2010

Look on the article for the strength of copper, if you want to know how strong it is. It's around here somewhere.

By anon61001 — On Jan 17, 2010

how strong is copper?

By anon61000 — On Jan 17, 2010

I was just wondering how it is made.

By anon54031 — On Nov 26, 2009

i like strong materials to work with. can you tell me if it can change its properties?

By anon32308 — On May 19, 2009

strong

By anon20165 — On Oct 26, 2008

can copper change its properties?

By anon7707 — On Feb 01, 2008

how strong is copper?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.