Metals are used for a staggering number of purposes. In their pure form, many metals have vulnerabilities, such as low melting points, a lack of strength or over-malleability. When two metals or two elements are combined, though, they form an alloy and this step in metallurgy paved the way for an infinite number of possibilities.
The use of alloys provided humanity with a limitless amount of applications and shaped the evolution of industry and art alike. In considering the wide range of alloys available, there is perhaps none so effective, efficient and beneficial as copper alloy.
Let’s take a look at copper, copper alloys, their characteristics and applications...
A Quick Overview of Copper (Cu)
Copper is arguably one of the most important metals on the planet and it expedited the metallurgy and smelting processes in the years proceeding and all throughout the Bronze Age. As a noble metal (resistant to corrosion), it is extremely malleable, ductile, and soft. Copper is also one of the few metallic elements that exists as a solid in nature.
It’s because of this naturally metallic state and striking reddish appearance that copper was first discovered by humans nearly 10,000 years ago. It was taken and used in a vast number of applications, both ornate and utilitarian, as was the first metal found workable by man.
It wasn’t until around 5,000 B.C. that new uses of copper began to be discovered with the advent of smelting. This brought humanity brass and bronze – equally as influential metals.
Copper’s Antimicrobial Nature
One of the most intriguing aspects of copper – and one of its lesser-known properties – is the inability for microbes and microorganisms to adhere to its surface. This property of copper has contributed to the metal’s popularity and widespread use, especially in applications related to water. For instance, since its initiation, copper piping has become the unanimous favorite of materials used in plumbing purposes.
Due to it’s oxidized protective layer and the fact that microbes can’t live on copper’s surface, copper is a perfect metal to use in any damp or wet areas. It’s also unaffected by humidity and temperature change. Another instance where copper is frequently used is in industrial marine applications. Found in desalination systems, embedded into the paint used on ship hull’s and comprising boat propellers, copper has proven time and again its versatility.
Sterling Silver Alloy
Usually referred to as just “Sterling Silver”, sterling silver alloy is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. In order to be stamped and verified as authentic sterling silver, a piece must contain 92.5% silver. While it can technically contain 7.5% of any other metal(s), copper is usually the secondary element used.
The reason copper is used in sterling silver alloy is because of pure silver’s softness and fragility. While lustrous and beautiful, pure silver is too easily scratched and damaged to be used in jewelry, hence the addition of copper. Copper's malleability allows it to be formed and molded within sterling silver, while is ductility gives the piece the necessary strength and support, hence it’s preferred setting.
As most of us in the industry know, sterling silver alloy may very well be the most sought after jewelry in the market. Its timeless look and vibrant sheen are highly desirable. Despite it's innate nature to tarnish, for centuries humanity has held it in high esteem.
Copper isn’t only found in sterling silver alloy, however. There are pieces of jewelry made exclusively of copper and copper alloys. As a matter of fact, the oldest piece of copper jewelry ever found has been dated all the way back to 8,700 B.C!
This 6th-8th Century Egyptian Bracelet is Made From Copper Alloy
Many people wear copper jewelry because of its supposed medical benefits. The human body uses copper throughout the circulatory and nervous systems, as well as in bones and joints. It’s for these reasons that some people find copper jewelry beneficial for ailments such as joint pain, headaches, arthritis and copper and zinc deficiencies.
Copper jewelry is still widely used today, often times in holistic circles – though there is a healthy amount of skepticism towards its medical benefits. Regardless of these though, there are those who wear copper purely for its unique red-orange look and sheen.
Copper in Intercept™ Technology
If you’ve ever read information about Intercept Corrosion Prevention Packaging before, you know that Intercept™ Technology is a patented copper polymer matrix that stops corrosion. The way Intercept™ Technology protects your valuables is by acting as a preferential corrosion site – it becomes a “sacrificial anode”.
Corrosive gases that come into contact with our Intercept™ materials bond to the present copper molecules. The copper molecules and the Intercept™ product itself (bag, film, tab, etc.) then degrade over time, rather than the object of value.
Intercept™ Technology utilizes a high surface area copper in its design. Because of this, the copper molecules are more prone to absorbing reactive gases. In essence, the thinner a layer of copper is, the more likely it is to tarnish.
By creating a copper polyethylene alloy of its own, Intercept™ Technology gains all the benefits of copper, while retaining the flexibility and reusability of plastic. Temperature and humidity independent, antimicrobial (no mold or mildew) and fully protective, it’s the most reliable way to protect your valuables.