Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a reddish-orange color. It is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material, and as a constituent of various metal alloys.
Copper occupies the same family in the periodic table as silver and gold. In terms of electronic structure, copper has an orbital electron, on top of a filled electron shell similar to silver and gold.
Copper is usually used, as almost all metals, for industrial and commercial use, in a fine-grained polycrystalline form. Polycrystalline metal has more strength than monocrystalline forms, particularly for smaller grains (crystal). It is easily worked, and is both ductile (easily made into wire) and malleable. The ease with which it can be applied makes it useful for electrical work, as well as its high electrical conductivity.
Copper has a reddish, orange or brown colour, due to a thin layers of oxidization. Pure copper is pink or peach in colour. Copper along osmium (blue), cesium and gold (both yellow) are the only four elemental metals with a natural color, other than gray or silver.
The main applications for copper are wires (60%), toppings and hydraulics (20%) and industrial machinery (15%). Copper is mainly used as a pure metal, but when a higher toughness is required, it is combined with other elements to make alloys (5% of total use), such as brass or bronze.
A small part of the copper supply is used in the production of compound nutritional supplements and fungicides in agriculture.
Copper was probably the first metal mined and worked by man. It was originally obtained as a native mineral and later from mineral casting. Copper's initial discovery by man is estimated to have taken place around 9000 B.C.E in the Middle East.
Copper objects from 6000 BC were found in Çatal Höyük, Anatolia . In 5000 B.C. people were melting and refining copper from oxides such as malachite and azurite . The earliest evidence of the use of gold were not envisioned until 4000 BC. The Sumerians used copper and bronze as easly as 3000 BC, Egyptians as well as the same time, including copper pipes. The Egyptians also discovered that the addition of small amounts of tin facilitated and improved methods of obtaining brass; to observe the durability of the material represented the copper with the Ankh, the symbol of eternal life.
In ancient China, copper is known to have been used since at least 2000 years B.C.E, and by 1200 BC highly skilled manufacture of bronze was executed - establishing a clear rule in metallurgy without comparison by the West. The ice man found in Tyrol (Italy) in 1991, whose remains have an age of 5300 years, was accompanied by a copper axe, boasting a purity of 99.7%.
It is possible that copper is the oldest metal to have been used in the production of tools. Objects have been dated as far back as 8700 B.C.E. Phoenician people (Phoenicia was an ancient Semitic thalassocratic civilization) exported copper to Greece, not delaying in exploring the mines of its territory, as shown by the names of Calce cities, Chalcis and Calcitis.
The main futures and copper options are traded by the Exchange of goods from New York (COMEX) and the London Metal Exchange (LME).