Copper is a chemical element with symbol Cu (from Latin: cuprum) and atomic number 29. It is a soft, malleable and ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. A freshly exposed surface of pure copper has a reddish-orange color. It is used as a conductor of heat and electricity, as a building material and as a constituent of various metal alloys, such as Sterling silver used in jewelry, cupronickel used to make marine hardware and coins and constantan used in strain gauges and thermocouples for temperature measurement.
Copper is found as a pure metal in nature, and this was the first source of the metal to be used by humans, ca. 8,000 BC. It was the first metal to be smelted from its ore, ca. 5,000 BC, the first metal to be cast into a shape in a mold, ca. 4,000 BC and the first metal to be purposefully alloyed with another metal, tin, to create bronze, ca. 3,500 BC.
In the Roman era, copper was principally mined on Cyprus, the origin of the name of the metal, from aes сyprium (metal of Cyprus), later corrupted to сuprum, from which the words copper (English), cuivre (French), Koper(Dutch) and Kupfer (German) are all derived. The commonly encountered compounds are copper(II) salts, which often impart blue or green colors to such minerals as azurite, malachite, and turquoise, and have been used widely and historically as pigments. Architectural structures built with copper (usually roofing elements) corrode to give green verdigris (or patina). Decorative art prominently features copper, both in the elemental metal and in compounds as pigments. Copper compounds are also used as bacteriostatic agents, fungicides, and wood preservatives.
Copper is essential to all living organisms as a trace dietary mineral because it is a key constituent of the respiratory enzyme complex cytochrome c oxidase. In molluscs and crustacea copper is a constituent of the blood pigment hemocyanin, replaced by the iron-complexe hemoglobin in fish and other vertebrates. In humans, copper is found mainly in the liver, muscle, and bone. The adult body contains between 1.4 and 2.1 mg of copper per kilogram of body weight. Hence a healthy human weighing 60 kilogram contains approximately 0.1g of copper. However, this small amount is essential to the overall human well-being.