Since copper is derived from a naturally-occurring mineral, it has been used by civilizations for thousands of years. Historians are not certain about when copper was discovered, but they believe that the earliest use of copper was roughly 11,000 years ago in the Middle East. Actual copper-smelting sites have been discovered throughout Jordan, Egypt and Israel. These are believed to have been used as early as 4500 B.C. In the United States, some historians claim that Native Americans were using copper 7000 years ago in the area now known as Michigan.
For thousands of years, copper was the only metal used by mankind. Since it was so malleable, copper was used for many purposes. Notably, ancient Egyptians used copper to create tubes for plumbing. Nearly 5000 years after it was made, some copper tubing that has been recovered from archaeological sites in Egypt is still functional. A short time later, people began using copper alloys to create ornaments and furnishings such as lamps and jewelry.
Eventually bronze, a copper alloy, became more popular than the original metal, sparking the Bronze Age. During this time, the use of bronze and, by extension, copper spread into Asia and Europe. Copper mines were discovered in Thailand and England which led to copper being used widely in these countries. By the Middle Ages, copper plating had been discovered and was being added to ships’ hulls to protect them against rot. During the 1800s, scientists realized that copper could be used as an insulator. This discovery led to copper wiring.
After people began finding gold 6000 years ago, the monetary value of copper began to decline. Alloys of tin and iron eventually replaced copper alloys as the standard metal, since these materials were so easy to find. In our modern day, copper is still used for plumbing because of its resilience. Copper has also regained its luster among designers, being used extensively for ornamental purposes. Residential copper retailers such as Crescent City Copper provide copper awnings, copper weathervanes and cupolas for homeowners.