Richmond’s hand-spun copper kettles are the product of designs and techniques that date back over 100 years. But the history of the material used to create them goes back much further. This blog looks at the history of copper, its central role in the development of human civilization, and what makes it such a great material for making beautiful, traditional kettles.
Copper has been used by humans for more than 10,000 years. Artefacts dating back to around 8700 BC have been discovered, and it’s believed that copper was the first metal used by man for making weapons and tools. The name comes from the Old English word ‘coper’, which came from the Latin term ‘Cyprium aes’, which meant a metal originating from Cyprus.
However, copper is found and mined all over the world. Created naturally in minerals, it’s then obtained for human use through smelting and electrolysis, mainly from open-pit mines but sometimes through underground shafts. In global copper production, Chile leads the way, mining more than double the amount of any other country. But in a sign of its global reach, every continent except Antarctica is represented in the top ten of copper-producing nations.
As a relatively common metal compared to gold and silver, copper is comparatively inexpensive and is therefore used for a variety of different applications. Perhaps the most easily recognisable application is in the coins we use every day, although the 1p and 2p coins currently in UK circulation are actually made of steel and then plated in copper.
Most copper is used for electrical equipment, ranging from phone lines to railways, as copper is an excellent conductor of both heat and electricity. It’s also used for plumbing, in machinery, for electronics and even in the automotive and aviation industries. A big part of its popularity across so many different sectors is down to its ease of machining, its lack of magnetism and its long-lasting resistance to corrosion.
But copper’s uses are more than just practical: it’s also widely employed in more creative and artistic ways. In the Middle Ages, many Renaissance artists used copper plates as canvases for their work, and added copper-based pigments to their paints to improve the depth of colours. More recently, more than 80 tonnes of copper were used in the construction of the Statue of Liberty in New York City, and to this day, copper remains a popular choice for jewellery, ornaments and home furnishings (like kettles!).
Another advantage of using copper in the modern day is that it is highly recyclable and doesn’t lose any of its quality through recycling processes. Only iron and aluminium are recycled more than copper by volume, and the International Copper Association estimates that 80% of all the copper ever mined remains in use today.
So while a Richmond copper kettle can bring the look of the 19th or early 20th century to your kitchen, there’s every chance that its true history is even longer.
Richmond hand-spun copper kettles are perfect accompaniments to every type of kitchen.