Brief History of Bronze and Copper Jewellery
Eagle-shaped Visigothic fibula - bronze and glass paste cloisonné.
National Archaeological Museum of Spain.
Luis García [GFDL
Bronze and copper are both versatile and useful metals that can trace their history as part of human civilisation back to the pharaohs of Egypt and even further back to pre-history itself. The use of these metals in jewellery and other personal adornments is nearly as long and illustrious.
Examples of the use of copper and bronze go back as far as recorded history. Copper, and copper jewellery, featured heavily in early civilizations and the earliest known piece of copper jewellery dates to the eighth millennium BC. The alloying of copper and tin produced bronze, and gave its name to an era (The Bronze Age – 3700-2000 BC) of great craftsmanship and metallurgy. Copper was associated with gods and goddesses and it become so valuable that it was used as money – first as natural lumps and then as coins. With this history, it is hard to think of this revered metal being used for the lowly penny.
As time progressed, the use of bronze and copper in art, sculpture, and architecture flourished. One of the best known copper statues, The Statue of Liberty, with its stunning verdigris patina, is an example of copper's popular use in art and architecture, as are many Victorian roofs and the roofs of illustrious buildings of worship and learning. Bronze sculpture, particularly castings of detailed animal studies of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, are treasured by collectors the world over.
Bronze and copper, while always used and treated with respect, may have truly found their own during the Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Arts and Crafts movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The malleable character of copper meant it was the perfect material for decorated items – trays, coal boxes, cooking utensils, and bas relief panels and plaques. While both of these metals had always been used in these ways, the natural, flowing lines of these movements partnered well with bronze and copper and pieces made with both, dating back to these art movements, are highly sought after.