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From: Chemical Heritage Foundation
Length: 01:31

a colorful use for this common element Read the full description.

Default-piece-image-1 Copper is not just found in pots and pans. It's also used to create the color green.

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Piece Description

Copper is not just found in pots and pans. It's also used to create the color green.

Broadcast History

Distributed as podcast January 2008.


The element copper is everywhere: in pots and pans, roofs and gutters, electronics and medical devices. It?s even in our bloodstream. But one of the oldest and most interesting uses for copper is in creating the color green.

In the days before synthetic pigments, copper was a key ingredient in the artist?s palette, used in paintings as well as illuminated manuscripts. The most common green pigment, verdigris, was made by suspending strips of copper above a bowl of warm vinegar, or, in wine-growing regions, by placing grape skins on copper plates. The copper reacted with the acetic acid to make copper acetate, which was then scraped off and ground into a powder. The green-blue pigment was often called Greek or Spanish green.

Another pigment made from copper is malachite, a deep green color ground from the ore of copper carbonate. This method was very popular in the 15th and 16th c...
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