Copper was the first metal discovered by man and has been used for thousands of years by craftsmen around the world for tools, artifacts and jewelry.
Copper was considered sacred by some Native American cultures and it continued to be used extensively even after the introduction of silver, steel, and metal alloys.
Vintage copper bracelet with Native American symbols
Copper was abundant in the Southwest, with Arizona having one of the largest copper deposits in the world. In some areas native copper could be found just laying on the ground without the need to smelt it from ore.
Copper’s was and is much less expensive than silver. Unlike steel and most other metals, copper can be easily shaped without heating.
Soldering or “sweating” is joining two pieces of metal together, using a medium called solder (pronounced “sodder”). The metals that are being joined might be the same such as copper to copper or sterling silver to sterling silver. That type of soldering is relatively simple for an experienced metal smith.
It is when soldering two different metals together that things can get tricky in terms of the amount of heat necessary and the type of solder required.
Examples of dissimilar metal-to-metal soldering common in Native American jewelry is copper to sterling silver and steel to sterling silver.
Copper Soldered to Sterling Silver
Copper requires much less heat to solder to sterling silver than it would take to solder steel to sterling silver. Also with copper, there isn’t a specialized solder needed.
That’s why copper is the metal of choice for belt loops on concho belts and is also seen as pin backs, for example, on vintage Native American pins and pin pendants.
Copper pin soldered to vintage sterling silver pin
Sterling silver concho belt with copper belt loops.