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Antique Copper Pots

Author: Susan Regan
Issue: May, 2010, Page 28
Photography by David Moore

The sizes of antique copper pots can vary. This collection ranges from the smaller vessel, measuring 10 inches in diameter and 8 inches high, to the larger one, which is 22 inches in diameter and 14 inches high
History, highlights and helpful hints

Copper has been used by mankind for thousands of years, as evidenced by the discoveries of such artifacts as razors, arrows, chisels and knives. Teri Rosvall, owner of Copperton Lane Antiques & Collectibles—an Internet company that specializes in antique copper items—notes that ancient peoples also utilized the metal to make cookware.

“Copper pots and vessels have been used since the Bronze Age in early Greek and Egyptian civilizations,” she says. “As the only colored metal other than gold, plus being an excellent conductor of heat and easy to form, copper and its alloy bronze became the material of choice for cooking pots and serving vessels.”

Over the years, copper pots became common in Europe and were brought to the U.S. by colonists. According to Rosvall, Americans—including well-known silver- and coppersmith Paul Revere—soon began producing their own wares. She explains that most antique pots functioned as vessels for cooking or serving food. “Until the Arts & Crafts era took hold in the late 1800s, purely decorative copper for display generally was available only to the wealthy in this country. Americans did not decorate their kitchens with copper that was not mainly functional until after World War II, though copper storage items, utensils and even appliances were prominent in kitchens after the turn of the last century.”

Alexandra Crowe of Showcase at the Peak in Scottsdale comments that one of the most appealing aspects of antique copper pots is their one-of-a-kind charm. “They are all different and all interesting,” she says, noting that these unique qualities can come about for a variety of reasons. For example, some may have looped handles that extend across the pots, which allowed the containers to be hung over the fire in a fireplace, while others bear dark, almost black patinas from years of use and exposure to fire. Today, home-owners enjoy displaying antique copper pots to lend a sense of history and rustic charm to a room, Crowe observes.

Decorative details. Some antique copper pots may feature decorative elements that can add to their appeal and worth. For example, look for brass bands near the handle or embellishments on hardware used to attach the handle to the pot. While rare, some pots also may bear signature marks that identify the manufacturers.

Authenticity. Old vessels were handmade and should exhibit characteristics indicative of such craftsmanship, as well as years of wear and tear. These include hammer marks, dents and old nails.

Patinas. Aged copper that has not been cleaned will have a patina. A natural copper patina—or verdigris—should be green and spotty, caused by exposure to moisture over time. A bluish or aqua-hued finish most likely was added recently to make the vessel look old.

Uniform markings. Forgeries often will show signs of being machine-made. Look for concentric rings in the metal and hammer marks that are uniform.

Lightweight pots. Beware of copper pots that feel lightweight. While the weight of a pot will vary depending on what metal was added to the copper to increase its durability, even a small antique vessel should weigh at least one pound.

Corrosion and fake repairs. “Check for weak areas, corrosion and holes in the sides and bottoms of the pot,” states Rosvall. “Make sure any handles, rings or knobs are securely attached and appear original, or at least consistent with the age of the pot. Repairs are okay in old copper, but keep in mind that many reproductions have fake repairs, sometimes more than one, designed to fool the buyer.”

Cooking in an antique pot. Many copper wares manufactured before the late 1800s to early 1900s were lined with tin and occasionally lead. Unless an antique copper pot has been properly treated to be food-safe, it should not be used for cooking or storing food.

Manufacturer Jayne-Young transformed this circa 1850s copper pot from Turkey into a light fixture.
• In the Phoenix area. In Phoenix, try Qcumberz, Relics Architectural Home & Garden, and Urban Southwest. In Scottsdale, check out Showcase at the Peak; Beau Mélange also occasionally has copper pots.
• On the Internet. Peruse Copperton Lane’s assortment of old copper vessels at, or visit Lucullus at
• Other uses. In addition to displaying antique copper pots, consider using them to hold firewood, magazines or pillows. California-based Jayne-Young turns old copper vessels into light fixtures and chandeliers. The company cleans and seals the pots to maintain their patinas and burn marks and then transforms them into fixtures like the one pictured above. Find samples of the repurposed pots at Valley Light Gallery in Scottsdale.

Photos - Antique copper pots often bear markings indicating years of wear and tear—including dents, charring and a green-hued patina—as is seen in these two vessels (bottom) from the 1800s.

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