A Copper Story
Copper is a natural metal created in volcanic regions from deposited hot Sulphur solutions, enriching rocks that are called copper ores. People discovered how to extract copper from its ore some 9,000 years ago, when they first began crafting items from this metal. They subsequently learned how to make bronze, a harder alloy, by adding tin to the copper. In fact, one of the major ages of human history is named after bronze, a copper alloy.
Lebanon, home of copper
The discovery of copper marked the start of the metal era in the Middle East. The first traces of pottery and metallurgy in Lebanon appear in Byblos and date back to the 4th millennium B.C. Forty-four Middle Bronze Age copper weapons discovered in Byblos and Tell Arqa point to Iran and Oman as the most probable regions where the copper used in these weapons originated, likely due to high regional exchange networks in the ancient Near East.
Copper was first used in the production of the bronze alloy to craft daggers, spears, arrows and swords. Appreciated for its durability, and particularly for being resistant to corrosion, copper became the go-to metal in making cooking utensils.
It later became a much sought-after material for decorative items, as Phoenician craftsmen used to master the art of chiseling and engraving metal perfectly, decorating dishes with hunting scenes or geometrical designs.
However, the decorative subjects changed over time. For example, during the Byzantine era, the patterns engraved on silver plates were mostly religious and inspired from the Bible and the Gospels, whereas during the Islamic era, the craftsmen used to adorn copper pieces with beautiful calligraphy engravings of verses from the Coran.
Many districts across the country were renowned centers of copper craftsmanship, in particular Al Nahassin Street in Tripoli, Burj Hammoud in Beirut, Qalamoun, Zahle, Sidon and Baalbeck. In fact, in the past Al Nahassin Street used to constantly reverberate with the deafening sound of artisans’ hammers pounding on copper. When strolling along these old streets, one can see a variety of copper-made items on display in old shops including bowls, platters, coffee cups, dishes, just some of the many decorative products made of copper or copper alloys such as brass, zinc or tin.
On Al Nahassin Street In Tripoli, the days of copper and brass have been threatened considerably with the emergence of aluminum and stainless steel, which are far more affordable.
Moreover, with the younger generation leaving the country or simply uninterested in this craft, the big challenge is to find people who are willing to learn this skill form their elders in order to perpetuate this beautiful tradition.
Of course, every Lebanese home must be decorated with ornamental pieces made of copper or brass. Inline with its passion for traditional craftwork and its mission to empower artisans in Lebanon, Orient 499 collaborates with the best craftspeople to offer a wide range of contemporary items made of copper or brass including vases, bowls, dishes, tissue boxes, incense burners and tarbouche shaped boxes, which enhance your home with a warm Lebanese touch.