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Basic Information

Copper is a soft, reddish metallic element, prone to forming blueish or greenish salts on weathering. Being an (entry level) noble metal it is one of the few that occur in nature in directly usable metallic form as opposed to needing extraction from an ore. This led to very early human use, from c. 8000 BC. - a period often referred to as the chalcolithic (copper-stone) era given that the majority of human technology was still based around natural materials (like stone). Following the adoption of natural copper, it was also the first metal to be smelted from its ore, c. 5000 BC, the first metal to be cast into a shape in a mold, c. 4000 BC and the first metal to be purposefully alloyed with another metal (tin) to create bronze, c. 3500 BC.

Early uses for copper include cookware, jewelry and musical instruments - it was quickly superseded in weapons and armour by bronze and pretty much any other industrial metal that could be used for the purpose. Copper plate was used to protect the timbers of wooden ships from ship-boring worms and any metal bolts used below the waterline tended to be made of copper or bronze as well for greater corrosion resistance. Also, as a low grade noble metal it has also served as coinage. "Precious" uses of copper can use it as-is or alloyed with gold to form "red gold" or tumbaga. Modern uses emphasize its conductive qualities - it is highly prized for electrical applications - and its corrosion resistance and ductility which make it useful for plumbing applications. It also remains popular as a material for kitchenware.

A craftsman who works in copper is likely to be called a brownsmith (or simply a coppersmith). One who works in bronze and/or brass as well as copper is more specifically known as a redsmith or brazier.

Trace amounts of copper are required in most terrestrial biology, more so in those species which use copper in place of iron in their blood.


Game and Story Use

  • Copper shortage, due to monsters in a mine, or bandits raiding Supply trains.
  • Search for a master Coppersmith in order to restore a magical artifact.
    • Discovering that the weapon of a legendary culture hero was, in fact, made of copper and is more of a blunt instrument by modern standards…
  • If you go for traditional fae with an iron-bane, consider giving them blue, copper based blood.
  • Copper makes for a decent material for mook-level jewelry and similar things … depending on the setting … in a heavily inflated D&D type economy it's probably almost worthless, in something closer to historical economics, like Harnmaster copper broaches, rings and the like will definitely be worth taking.
    • It may also be more popular in a culture with a greater proportion of red-haired people, as copper and red gold will be more easily colour matched.
    • Copper and bronze domestic wares, likewise, will become more significant treasure as realism increases - and with the much wider utility of such metal, they are likely easier to dispose of: even if no-one wants them for their original purpose, even quite a small town might be expected to have a brownsmith who can buy them for their metal value (whereas vessels of silver or gold might be outside their budget range).
  • Bear in mind the possibility for primitive species to be armed with copper weapons and armour…
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