A Dictionary of Arts: Copper

A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures, and Mines; containing A Clear Exposition of Their Principles and Practice

by Andrew Ure, M. D.;
F. R. S. M. G. S. Lond.: M. Acad. M. S. Philad.; S. PH. DOC. N. GERM. Ranow.; Mulh. Etc. Etc.

Illustrated with nearly fifteen hundred engravings on wood
Eleventh American, From The Last London Edition.
To which is appended, a Supplement of Recent Improvements to The Present Time.

New York: D Appleton & company, 200 Broadway. Philadelphia: George S. Appleton, 148 Chestnut St.


COPPER is one of the metals most anciently known. It was named from the island of Cyprus, where it was extensively mined and smelted by the Greeks. It has a reddish brown colour inclining to yellow; a faint but nauseous and rather disagreeable taste; and when rubbed between the fingers it imparts a smell somewhat analogous to its taste. Its specific gravity is from 8.8 to 8.9. It is much more malleable than it is ductile; so that far finer leaves may be obtained from it than wire. It melts at the 27th degree of Wedgewood's pyrometer, and at a higher temperature it evaporates in fumes which tinge the fire of a bluish green. By exposure to heat with access of air, it is rapidly converted into black scales of peroxyde. In tenacity it yields to iron; but surpasses gold, silver, and platinum, considerably in this respect.

In mineralogy, the genus copper includes abut 13 different species, and each of these contains a great many varieties. These ores do not possess any one general exterior character by which they can be recognized; but they are readily distinguished by chemical re-agents. Water of ammonia digested upon any of the cupreous ores in a pulverized state, after they have been calcined wither alone or with nitre, assumes an intense blue color, indicative of copper. The richest of the ordinary ores appear under two aspects; the first class has a metallic lustre, a copper red, brass yellow, iron gray, or blackish gray color, sometimes inclining to blue; the second is without metallic appearance, has a red color, verging upon purple, blue, or green, the last tint being the most usual. Few copper ores are to be met with, indeed, which do not betray the presence of this metal by more or less of a greenish film.

1. Native copper occurs in crystals, branches, and filaments, its most common locality being in primitive rocks. It is found abundantly in Siberia, at the mines of Tourinski, in those of Hungary, of Fundo-Moldavi in Gallicia, of Fahlun in Sweden, of Cornwall, &c, The most remarkable masses of native copper hitherto observed were - first, one in Brazil, 14 leagues from Basa, which weighed 2616 pounds; and secondly, another which Dr. Francis-le-Baron discovered in America to the south of Lake Superior. It was nearly 15 feet in circumference.

2. Sulphuret of Copper, the vitreous ore of Brochant. The texture of this ore is compact; its fracture, conchoidal, surface sometimes dull; color, iron black or lead gray, often bluish, iridescent, or reddish from a mixture of protoxide. it is easily melted even by the heat of a candle; but more difficult of reduction than protoxide. This ore yields to the knife, assuming a metallic lustre when cut. Its density varies from 4.8. to 5.34. Its composition, according to Klaproth, is 78.5 copper, 18.5 sulphur, with a little iron and silica. Its equivalent constitution by theory is 80 copper + 20 sulphur =100; whence 78.5 of metal should be associated with 19.6 of sulphur. This ore is therefore one of the richest ores, and forms very powerful veins, which likewise contain some orange protoxide. It is to be found in all considerable copper districts; in Siberia, Saxony, Sweden, and especially Cornwall, where the finest crystals occur.

3. Copper Pyrites resembles in its metallic yellow hue, sulphuret of iron; but the latter is less pale, harder, and strikes fire more easily with steel. It presents the most lively rainbow colours. Its specific gravity is 4.3. It contains generally a good deal of iron, as the following analysis will show:copper, 20, sulphur 37, iron 33, in 100 parts. According to Hisinger, the Swedish pyrites contains 63 of copper, 12 of iron, and 25 of sulphur. These ores occur in primitive and transition districts in vast masses and powerful veins; And are commonly accompanied with gray copper, sulphuret of iron, sparry iron, sulphurets of lead, and zinc.

4. Gray Copper has a steel gray color, more or less deep, either shining or full; fracture uneven; a distinct metallic lustre; difficult of fusion at the blowpipe; it communicates to glass of borax a yellowish-red color. Its density in crystals is 4.86. it composition is very variable; consisting essentially of copper, iron, antimony, and sulphur. The exploration of this ore is profitable, in consequence of the silver which is frequently contains. It occurs in primitive mountains; and is often accompanied with red silver ore, copper pyrites, and crystallized quartz.

5. Protoxide of Copper, or red oxyde of Copper: its colour is a deep red, sometimes very lively, especially when bruised. It is friable, difficult of fusion at the blowpipe, reducible on burning charcoal, soluble with effervescence in nitric acid, forming a green liquid. Its constitution, when pure, is 88.9 copper + 11.1 oxygen =100.

6. Black oxyde of Copper is of a velvet black, inclining sometimes to brown or blue; and it acquires the metallic lustre on being rubbed. It is infusible at the blowpipe. Its composition is, copper 80+ oxygen 20; being a true peroxyde.

7. Hydrosilicate of Copper consists essentially of oxyde of copper, silica, and water. Its colour is green; and its fracture is conchoidal with a resinous lustre, like most minerals which contain water. Its specific gravity is 2.73. It is infusible at the blowpipe alone, but it melts easily with borax.

8. Dioptase Copper, or Emerald Malachite; a beautiful but rare cupreous mineral, consisting of oxyde of copper, carbonate of lime, silica, and water in varying proportions.

9. Carbonate of Copper, Malachite, is a blue or green color. It occurs often in beautiful crystals.

10. Sulphate of Copper, Blue Vitriol, similar to the artificial salt of the laboratory. The blue water which flows from certain copper mines is a solution of this salt. The copper is easily procured in the metallic state by plunging pieces of iron into it.

11. Phosphate of Copper is of an emerald green, or verdigris color, with some spots of black. It presents fibrous or tuberculous masses with a silky lustre in the fracture. It dissolves in nitric acid without effervescence, forming a blue liquid; melts at the blowpipe, and is reducible upon charcoal, with the aid of a little grease, into a metallic globule. Its powder does not colour flame green, like the powder of muriate of copper.

12. Muriate of Copper is green of various shades; its powder imparts to flame a remarkable blue and green color. It dissolves in nitric acid without effervescence; and is easily reduced before the blowpipe. Its density is 3.5. By Klaproth's analysis, it consists of oxyde of copper 73, muriatic acid 10, water 17.

13. Arseniate of Copper. It occurs in beautiful blue crystals. Before the blowpipe it melts, exhaling fumes of a garlic odor, and it affords metallic globules when in contact with charcoal. See more upon the ores at the end of this article.

In the article METALLURGY, I have described the mode of working certain copper mines; and shall content myself here with giving a brief account of two cupreous formations, interesting in a geological point of view; that of the copper slate of Mansfeldt, and of the copper veins of Cornwall.

The curious strata of bituminous schist in the first of these localities, are among the most ancient of any which contain the exuviæ of organized bodies not testaceous. From among their tabular slabs the vast multitudes of fossil fish were extracted, which have rendered the cantons of Mansfeldt, Eisleben, Ilmenau, and other places in Thuringia and Voigtland so celebrated. Many of the fish are transformed into copper pyrites. Here, also, have been found the fossil remains of the lizard family, called Monitors.

Such is the influence of a wise administration upon the prosperity of mines, that the thin layer of slate in this formation, of which 100 pounds commonly contain but one pound and a half of copper, occasionally argentiferous, has been for several centuries the object of smelting works of the greatest importance to the territory of Mansfeldt and the adjoining country.

The frequent deragnements which this metallic deposite experiences, led skilful directors of the under-ground operations at an early period to study the order of superposition of the accompanying rocks. From their observations, there resulted a system of facts which have served to guide miners, not only in the country of Mansfeldt, but over a great position of Germany, and in several other countries where the same series of rocks, forming the immediate envelope of the cupreous schists, were found to occur in the same order of superposition.

Of the English copper works. - The deposites of copper in Cornwall occur always at veins in granite, or in the schistose rocks which surround and cover it; and hence, the Cornish miners work mostly in the granite or greenish clay slate; the former of which they call growan, the latter killas. But tin is sometimes disseminated in small veins in porphyry or elvan, which itself forms great veins in the above rocks. No stratification has been observed in Cornwall.

The copper veins are abundant in the killas and rate in the granite; but most numerous near the line of junction of the two rocks. The different kinds of mineral veins in Cornwall may be classed as follows: -
1. Veins of elvan; elvan courses, or elvan channels.
2. Tin veins, or tin lodes; the latter word being used by the Cornish miners to signify a vein rich in ore, and the word course, to signify a barren vein.
3. Copper veins running east and west; east and west copper lodes.
4. Second system of copper veins, or contra copper lodes.
5. Crossing veins; cross courses.
6. Modern copper veins; more recent copper lodes.
7. Clay veins; of which there are two sets, the more ancient, called Cross-Fluckans; and the more modern, called Slides.

There are therefore three systems of copper veins in Cornwall; of which the first is considered to be the most ancient, because it is always traversed by the two others, and because, on the contrary, it never cuts them off. The width of these veins does not exceed 6 feet, though occasional enlargements to the extent of 12 feet sometime take place. Their length is unknown, but the one explored in the United Mines has been traced over an extent of seven miles. The gangue of these veins is generally quartz, either pure, or mixed with green particles analogous to chlorite. They contain iron pyrites, blende, sulphuret, and several other compounds of copper, such as the carbonate, phosphate, arseniate, muriate, &c. The most part of the copper veins are accompanied with small argillaceous veins, called by the miners fluckan of the lode. These are often found upon both sides of the vein, so as to form cheeks or salebandes.

When two veins intersect each other, the direction of the one thrown out becomes and object of interest to the miner and geologist. In Saxony it is regarded as a general fact that the rejected portion is always to the side of the obtuse angle; this also holds generally in Cornwall, and the more obtuse the angle of incidence, the more considerable the out-throw.

The great copper vein of Carharack, in the parish of Gwenap, is a most instructive example of intersection. The power of this vein is 8 feet; it runs nearly from east to west, and dips toward the north at an inclination of 2 feet in a fathom. Its upper part is in the killas, its lower part in the granite. The vein has suffered two intersections; the first results from encountering the vein called Steven's fluckan, which runs from north-east to south-west, throwing it out several fathoms. The second has been caused by another vein, almost at right angles to the first, and which has driven in 20 fathoms out to the right side. The fall of the vein occurs, therefore, in one case to the right, and in the other to the left; but in both instances, t is to the side of the obtuse angle. This disposition is very singular; for one portion of the vein appears to have ascended, while another has sunk.

The mining works in the copper veins are carried on by reverse steps; see MINES. The grand shafts for drainage and extraction are vertical, and open upon the roof side of the vein, traversing it to a certain depth. These pits are sunk to the lowest point of the exploration; and, in proportion as the workings descend, by means of excavations in the vein, the pits are deepened and put into communication toward their bottom with each new gallery of clongation, by means of transverse galleries. At present, the main shafts are fully 160 fathoms deep. Their horizontal section is oblong, and is divided into two compartments; the one destined for extraction, the other for the pumps. Their timbering has nothing remarkable, but is executed with every attention to economy, the whole wood employed in these mines being brought from Norway.

The descent of the workmen is effected by inclined shafts scooped out of the vein; the ladders are slightly inclined; they are interrupted every 10 fathoms by floors; the steps are made of iron, and to prevent them from turning under the foot, the form of a miner's punch or jumper has been given them, the one end being round, and the other being wedge-shaped.

The ore is raised wither by means of horse-gins, or by steam-engine power, most frequently of high pressure. I shall take the Consolidated Mines as an example.

The draining, which is one of the most considerable sources of expense, both from the quantity of water, and from the depth of the mine, is executed by means of sucking and forcing pumps, the whole piston-rods of which, 120 feet long, are attached to a main-rod suspended at the extremity of the working beam of a steam-engine.

On this mine three steam-engines are erected of very great power, for the purpose of drainage; the one called the Maria engine is of the first-rate force, and most improved construction. The cylinder is 90 inches in internal diameter, and the length of the stroke is 9 feet 11 inches. It works single stroke, and is encased in a coating of bricks to prevent dissipation of the heat. The vapor is admitted at the upper end of the cylinder during the commencement of the fall of the piston, at a pressure capable of forming an equilibrium with a column of 60 inches of mercury. The introduction of the steam ceases whenever the piston has descended through a certain space, which may be increased or diminished at pleasure. During the remainder of the descent the piston is pressed merely by this vapor in its progressive expansion, while the under side of the piston communicates with the condenser. It ascends by the counterweight at the pump end of the working beam. Hence, it is only during the descent of the piston that the effective stroke is exerted. Frequently the steam is admitted only during the sixth part of the course of the piston, or 18 inches. In this way the power of the engine is proportioned to the work to be done; that is, to the body of water to be raised. The maximum force of the above engine is about 310 horses; though it is often made to act with only one third of this power.

The copper mines of the Isle of Anglesey, those of North Wales, of Westmoreland, the adjacent parts of Lancashire and Cumberland, of the south west of Scotland, of the Isle of Man, and of the south east of Ireland, occur also in primitive or transition rocks. The ores lie sometimes in masses, but more frequently in veins. The mine of Ecton in Staffordshire, and that of Cross-gill-burn, near Alston-moor in Cumberland, occur in transition or metalliferous limestone.

The copper ores extracted both from the granitic and schistose localities, as well as from the calcareous, are uniformly copper pyrites more or less mixed with iron pyrites; the red oxyde, carbonate, arseniate, phosphate, and muriate of copper, are very rate in these districts.

The working of copper in the Isle of Anglesey may be traced to a very remote era. It appears that the Romans were acquainted with the Hamlet mine near Holyhead; but it was worked with little activity till about 70 years ago. This metalliferous deposite lies in a greenish clay slate, passing into talc slate; a rock associated with serpentine and euphotide (gabbro of Von Buch). The veins of copper are from one to two yards thick, and they converge towards a point where their union forms a considerable mass of ore. On this mass the mine was pierced by an open excavation, which is now upwards of 300 feet deep, and appears from above like a vast funnel. Galleries are formed at different levels upon the flank of the excavation to follow the several small veins, which run in all directions, and diverge from a common centre like so many radii. The ore receives in these galleries a kind of sorting, and is raised by means of hand windlasses to the summit of a hill, where it is cleaned by breaking and riddling.

The water is so scanty in this mine that it is pumped up by a six-horse steam-engine. A great proportion of it is charged with sulphate of copper. It is conveyed into reservoirs containing pieces of old iron; the sulphate of thus decomposed into copper of cementation. The Anglesea ore is poor, yielding only from 2 to per cent. of copper: a portion of its sulphur is collected in roasting the ore.

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