Copper has played an extremely important role in the development of civilizations. Copper objects - jewellery, tools and weapons - have been found dating back to 9000 BC in Anatolia and to 6000 BC in Iran. It is not exactly known where and when copper started to be produced from oxidised ores, but the process seems to have been well established around 5500 BC in the Sumerian region and towards 4500-3500 BC in the Nile Valley. Hence, the Copper Age is believed to have started around 5000 BC. These civilisations later moved to more complex copper alloys and thus introduced the Bronze Age.
The name ‘copper’ is actually derived from the Romans and their mining in Cyprus, where the metal was called cyprium, which was later converted to cuprum. From the 13th to 15th centuries a prosperous copper and brass industry developed in Belgium, especially in the Meuse Valley.
- Copper is best known for its extremely good conductivity for electricity
- Apart from gold, copper is the only metal to have a clear, specific color.
- Its natural color is salmon pink, but it often appears to be red owing to superficial oxidation.
- Electrical and electronic applications
- Alloys of copper are used in many applications such as pipes, heat exchangers, fittings for buildings, copperware and brassware, car radiators, and brewery vats.
- Some of the most popular copper alloys are with zinc, tin, aluminium, and nickel silvers.
- Deoxidised copper, renders the metal suitable for welding and brazing.
- Copper salts are used to combat certain fungi in viniculture because of their fungicidal and bactericidal properties.
- Certain combinations containing oxides of copper, alkaline earths (calcium, strontium, barium) and rare earths (yttrium) are used in superconductors.
More than 99% of the copper produced is used in its metallic form, i.e. as copper metal and copper alloys. Recycling rates for copper vary quite considerably by region.
Scrap from the forming or shaping of copper and its alloys is generally reprocessed on the spot, either by re-melting and adjusting to grade, or by using it as a starting material for less demanding applications. Scrap is also recovered from a range of obsolete goods and appliances — wire, cables, equipment, electronic scrap, motors, fractions from shredding end-of-life cars and household appliances, etc.