Home Minerals Copper


Definition of Copper

In its free-occurring metallic state, copper was probably the first metal to be used by humans. Neolithic people are believed to have used copper as a substitute for stone by 8000 BCE. Around 4000 BCE, Egyptians cast copper in molds. By 3500 BCE, copper began to be alloyed with tin to produce bronze. Copper is opaque, bright, and metallic salmon pink on freshly broken surfaces but soon turns dull brown. Copper crystals are uncommon, but when formed are either cubic or dodecahedral, often arranged in branching aggregates. Most copper is found as irregular, flattened, or branching masses. It is one of the few metals that occur in the “native” form without being bonded to other elements. Native copper seems to be a secondary mineral, a result of interaction between copper-bearing solutions and iron-bearing minerals.

Name: From the Latin cuprum, in turn from the Greek kyprios, Cyprus, from which island the metal was early produced.

Chemistry: Copper, typically with only small amounts of other metals.

Chemical Properties of Copper

Chemical Classification Native element
Chemical Composition Cu

Physical Properties of Copper

Color Copper red on a fresh surface, dull brown on a tarnished surface
Streak Metallic copper red
Luster Metallic
Cleavage None
Diaphaneity Opaque
Mohs Hardness 2.5 to 3
Specific Gravity 8.9
Diagnostic Properties Color, luster, specific gravity, malleability, ductility
Crystal System Isometric
Tenacity Malleable
Fracture Hackly
Density 8.94 – 8.95 g/cm3 (Measured)    8.93 g/cm3 (Calculated)

Optical Properties of Copper

Type Isometric
Twinning Spinel twins {111}


Commonly associated with porous zones in mafic extrusive rocks, less commonly in sandstones and shales, where the copper was probably of hydrothermal origin, precipitated as the result of oxidizing conditions; in the oxidized zone of large, disseminated copper deposits as a result of secondary processes. A rare mineral in some meteorites.

Uses Area

The vast majority of copper produced in the world is used in the electrical industry. Most of the remaining are used to create acclimation. The main constituent substance of the beam is the important series of alloys brass (copper and zinc), bronze (copper and tin) and nickel silvers (copper, zinc and nickel, no silver).

  • Conducts electricity and heat;
  • Wiring,
  • Electrical contacts and circuits;
  • Coinage
  • Alloys


Silver, chalcocite, bornite, cuprite, malachite, azurite, tenorite, iron oxides, many other minerals.


Occurs in many districts world-wide. In the USA, as remarkably large masses and excellent, large crystals in deposits of the Keweenaw Peninsula, Keweenaw and Houghton Cos., Michigan; in several porphyry copper deposits in Arizona including those at the New Cornelia mine, Ajo, Pima Co.; the Copper Queen and other mines at Bisbee, Cochise Co.; and at Ray, Gila Co.; similarly in the Chino mine at Santa Rita, Grant Co., New Mexico. In Namibia, at the Onganja mine, 60 km northeast of Windhoek, and at Tsumeb. In large crystals from the Turinsk copper mine, Bogoslovsk, Ural Mountains, Russia. In Germany, at Rheinbreitbach, North Rhine-Westphalia, and the Friedrichssegen mine, near Bad Ems, Rhineland-Palatinate. In fine specimens from many mines in Cornwall, England. In Australia, at Broken Hill, New South Wales. In Chile, at Andacolla, near Coquimbo. From Bolivia, at Corocoro.


Bonewitz, R. (2012). Rocks and minerals. 2nd ed. London: DK Publishing.

Handbookofmineralogy.org. (2019). Handbook of Mineralogy. [online] Available at: http://www.handbookofmineralogy.org [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Mindat.org. (2019). Copper: Mineral information, data and localities..

Available at: https://www.mindat.org/min-727.html [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].