Wikijunior:The Elements/Copper

Shows the position of Copper on the periodic chart.
Copper's symbol on the Periodic Table

What does it look, feel, taste, or smell like?

Native copper about 1 ½ inches (4 cm) in size.
A small stream and lake with copper dissolved in it

Copper is a reddish-orange metal, one of only two metals (the other being gold) which has a color other than silver or gray. It tastes metallic, and feels like salt.

How was it discovered?


As early as 10,000 years ago, people found small deposits of native (pure) copper metal in the ground. This copper was then hammered and used to make weapons, tools and decorations. In Northern Iraq, a copper pendant was found that can be dated back to about 8700 B.C.

Where did its name come from?


Copper gets its name from the Latin word Cuprum, meaning from the island of Cyprus. In the Ancient Roman world (whose common language was Latin), most copper was mined in Cyprus.

Did You Know?

  • Copper used to be the symbol for the Roman goddess Venus, to whom the island of Cyprus was sacred.
  • The Statue of Liberty contains 179,200 pounds (81.3 tonnes) of copper.
  • When a form of copper dissolves in water, the water turns blue.

Where is it found?


Copper can be found underground in the form of copper ore. The main copper ore producing countries are Chile, United States, Indonesia, Australia, Peru, Russia, Canada, China, Poland, Kazakhstan, Zambia, Zaire, and Mexico. Copper is usually obtained from the ores cuprite (CuO2), tenorite (CuO), malachite (CuCO3.Cu(OH)2), chalcocite (Cu2S), covellite (CuS), and bornite (Cu6FeS4).

What are its uses?

In many countries, such as the United States and Canada, pennies are made at least partly from copper.

As copper is a great conductor of electricity it is used to make wires that carry electricity into homes, schools and businesses. In addition, copper is used to make locks, pipes, doorknobs, pots, bronze and jewelry. Most coins also contain copper, not just pennies (in fact pennies are now mostly zinc due to rising copper prices, but other coins are mostly still copper.)

Is it dangerous?


A little copper is necessary for many living things. However, copper in higher levels can be toxic if eaten.