What is Copper?

Copper is a member of a family of metals called ‘the red metals’ – and it’s easy to see why. You probably encounter copper every day, in everything from loose change in your pockets to the pipes that keep your home warm. But what are the main properties of copper? And how can you use it in your project or home?

Coil of copper wire
Copper’s excellent heat-conducting properties mean it is often used in heating pipework.  Photo by Ra Dragon on Unsplash.

Copper is very easy to identify, thanks to its distinctive orangey pink colour, which can be likened in appearance to rose gold. In fact, it’s this likeness which has seen demand for copper in interiors surge in recent years, thanks to the rise in popularity of the rose gold aesthetic. But there’s more to metal than the way it looks, so it’s important to consider function as well as form.

In case you’ve forgotten your periodic table, copper has the symbol Cu and atomic number 29, and other than gold, is the only metal on the table that isn’t grey or silver in colour. It is extremely ductile and pliable, meaning it can easily be rolled, shaped and made into wire. It’s also great at conducting both heat and electricity, which is why it can commonly be found in the form of household pipes and wiring.

House with a new copper roof
A gleaming copper roof in Chamonix in the French Alps. Photo by Kyoshi Reyes on Unsplash.

One unusual thing to note about copper is that it is a native metal. A native metal is one that can be found in nature in its usable form, so it doesn’t need to be separated from an ore or combined with other metals to make an alloy. Although today copper is often extracted from its ore, it can still be found in its recognisably rosy state in certain areas. As a native metal, copper was relatively easy for people to find, identify and work with long before industry came along. For this reason, copper was used by humans as early as 8000 BC, and ancient archaeological evidence has been found of it being made into jewellery, containers, tools and more. It is still mined all over the world, but the country that produces the most copper on the planet today is Chile.

Enough about the history of copper, though: what is it used for in the modern age? As well as being utilised in heating, plumbing and wiring, copper is popular in industry, engine-building, for pans, water tanks, in car radiators, computing components – it even makes for good roofing material. Copper is not a magnetic metal, has anti-bacterial properties and is exceptionally tough when it comes to corrosion. If you have ever seen a copper coin that has been exposed to moisture, you may have noticed that it doesn’t take long for a teal-coloured colour to develop on its outer surface. This patina is surface layer of oxidisation which actually protects the metal underneath; it may look different, but on the inside, the copper is as strong as it always was. This outer coating of greenish blue is so vivid and unique that many people want their copper to have been exposed to the elements before they use it. That’s why we created our aged copper sheets, which have been hand-aged to speed up the process and give an instant, bright patina. Every bespoke sheet is different and makes a stunning focal point in the home, especially when fitted as an aged copper splashback in the kitchen. As copper is so soft and malleable, it’s also possible for its surface to be treated to create brushed copper, a sleek material with a subtly textured finish and an overall matte look.

Copper alcohol distillery
A copper alcohol distillery in the Czech Republic. Photo by Martin Kníže on Unsplash.

So, although copper has a lot going for it on the industrial front, it also a metal with a distinct look that lends itself well to interiors. Even when you consider copper’s function over form, there’s no denying that this metal’s striking shade looks good in bars, restaurants and the home. Whether it is aged, brushed or gleaming and brand new, copper comes into its own when it is used in copper kitchen splashbacks, on bar tops, in bathrooms and more. A rich, copper accent against a deep, dark-coloured wall will always make a strong statement, and fitting an aged copper splashback to a kitchen is a simple way to transform your everyday space into something amazing.

Aged copper kitchen splashback behind oven top
This stunning aged copper splashback from Buy Metal Online perfectly complements the kitchen’s industrial pipe-inspired door handles.