Seven thousand years in the service of humanity--the history of copper, the red metal
Measured by weight, copper is the third most important metal used by man. The annual value of its 2007 output was on a par with the GDP of e.g. Ukraine. Copper is also one of the oldest metals, its employment going back 7000 years. For millennia, it was predominantly employed for decorative purposes, coinage and in warfare. Technical breakthroughs in antiquity, like smelting and alloying, expanded its production and enhanced its utility. Copper's true heyday occurred after 1850, with the usage of electricity. In the period since then, volumes increased 300-fold, while costs and prices declined. With impressive progress in the technology of its production and consumption, the red metal has been able to hold its own, despite the emergence over history of formidable substitutes like iron, aluminum, plastics and optic fiber.
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