The 21st century

Copper is essential for the generation, transmission, distribution and use of electricity –without which our civilisation would collapse. Copper is especially important for the supply of environmentally-friendly energy because it’s such an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. With awareness of sustainability and eco-friendly energy solutions on the rise, copper will become even more important to the energy sector in the future.

From the earliest days of telecommunications, copper has provided the building blocks for transmission of signals from A to B. Decades of development and breakthroughs in communication would have been impossible without copper. And the higher demands we place on information technology – faster delivery of information, high-speed connections and guaranteed availability everywhere – are leading to rising demand for copper.

Copper has played an important role in the motor industry for a long time. Without copper electrical and electronic components, intelligent engine and gear management wouldn’t be possible. The ever-increasing demand for comfort in modern cars creates more demand for copper. And the development of greener and fuel-efficient electric engines and electric cars is dependent on copper. The engine in a hybrid car contains about 50kg of copper – and demand is set to increase even more.

2000 AC

Modern Era

Without copper, the modern era as we know it would never have come about. The events that marked its dawn - the discovery of America and the invention of the printing press - would simply not have been possible without copper. Centuries later, copper-zinc alloys were used to create brass, which has multiple uses. Brass helped Britain transform itself into a leading industrial nation. Since the discovery of electric current, copper has been used in almost all fields and is an essential material in modern industry.

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages copper was widely used for jewellery and objects of daily use. It also developed into a highly prized metal for chemistry. From the 13th Century onwards, metallurgy became a huge field of experimentation for chemists. They discovered uses for a number of sulphates of precious metals. Copper vitriol (copper sulphate) was, for example, used as a disinfectant, timber preservative and as a fertilizer. Large quantities of copper were mined in Germany in the Middle Ages and used to make bronze, leaded red brass, brass and also roof coverings. Between 600 and 700 hundredweight of copper plate was needed to cover the roof of a large church.

500 AC

Roman Empire

Copper was an important metal for coinage in the Roman Empire. The Romans used bronze bars as a means of payment from 500 BC onwards, a long time before "money" as such had been introduced. A law stipulated the equation 1 cow = 10 sheep = 100 pounds of bronze. Stamped bronze bars appeared around 300 BC weighing "one pound of copper". By stamping the bars, the state guaranteed the purity of the metal and the weight of the bar. In time the bars became too impractical for purposes of trade and coinage was introduced. After this time gold, silver and copper remained the most important coinage metals for many centuries.

753 BC

Bronze Age

The Bronze Age is named after the alloy of copper and tin. The earliest bronze findings have only a very low tin content. Little by little this was increased until a content of around 14 percent had become the norm by about 2500 BC. Copper remained the most important metal for a long time, even after methods had been developed for the processing of iron.


Cyprus began to supply the eastern Mediterranean countries with copper long before the Ancient World. During the period of the Erimi Culture copper became the most important natural resource for the third largest Mediterranean island. Copper was even named after the island, which had become famous for its copper resources. The Latin name "cuprum" is derived from "aes cyprium" - "ore from the island of Cyprus".

Egypt in the Early Bronze Age

In the ancient region of Upper Egypt archaeologists discovered drill holes in blocks of rose granite that were proved to have been made using copper drills. Drainage systems made of hammered copper plate have been found in various pyramid temples. Between 3200 and 1160 BC the Egyptians had extensive state copper mines on the Sinai peninsula in which copper ore was intensively exploited and processed. At the same time they even began to use soldering methods with copper plate. Trade with coppers and objects made of copper became of increasing economic importance. This development reached its zenith at the end of the first century BC when, for the first time, objects were produced by hollow casting.

3500 BC

Early Bronze Age

Basic methods of metal extraction and processing were slowly developed between the end of the New Stone Age, or Neolithic Period, and the Early Bronze Age. This is why the period is sometimes called the Copper or Copper-Stone Age. Up to this time there had been some knowledge about metals such as gold, silver and copper, but because almost nothing was known about metal processing, tools and weapons were made of stone. Metal processing began at the end of the New Stone Age. The art of smelting sulphides and oxides out of copper ore was developed in Asia Minor, after which the importance of copper as a material increased.

5500 BC

Stone Age

The oldest copper findings come from Asia Minor and Iran and are over 9000 years old. They are fragments of beads and brooches decorated with copper particles. At that time the material was hammered out of the surface of natural deposits of pure copper. The items were found in Ali Koc in Iran and Cayonu and Catal Huyuk in Turkey, nowadays the Middle East.

9500 BC

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