We regard gold as the king of all metals, but copper is the oldest metal known to man, dating back at least 10,000 years. It is interesting to note, also, that the period in our history we refer to as the “bronze age” is intimately linked to copper, since bronze is in fact a copper alloy.
There was a time, around 6,000 years ago, when both copper and gold were subject to equal fascination; a time when agricultural communities flourished along ancient rivers and hills of the region of the world known as the cradle of civilization.
At that time in history, it would have been common for small specs of gold and other similarly colorful metals and ores to catch the attention of fishermen, for example. Smiths of the time already possessed the engineering know-how to convert natural elements into intricate tools and implements used in everyday life.
Metals such as gold and copper, both present in sufficient “abundance” to catch the eye, were initially transformed into dishes and even personal ornaments. Intentional mining, both in ancient mines and later in the New World, America, revealed the magnificent sources of small sediments.
Three ancient sources of copper have been identified. We know that the Sumerians found their source of fine metals, including copper, in the region known as Armenia. It is believed that the Egyptians were first to retrieve copper from the hills surrounding the Red Sea. Copper implements and brooches from Egypt were commonly traded in Cyprus and it is this Island that finally lends its name to the red metal. Copper comes from the Latin word “cuprum,” meaning “from Cyprus.” Thus it seems the earthy, red metal we love to contrast with silver in fine jewelry got its name as a result of trading and commerce.
The same symbol used in Egyptian hieroglyphic carvings to represent copper as itself was used as a symbol to represent eternal life as well. It is always fascinating to consider how elements that occur naturally in the world and have, in and of themselves, no greater value than any other thing that exists, should capture the imagination and change the world as much as they do. Copper is a great example of this poetic truth.
Here is the inspiration for this article and a fantastic resource for more detailed information about copper, from the Copper Development Association Inc: History of Copper