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Monday Feature – Copper Firebrick Revealed

In my mind, copper is truly a Michigan metal.  Obviously, copper is found in many other places in the world. Michigan’s native copper, however, found and mined in the Upper Peninsula, is a rare form of copper.  Up until the point that native Michigan copper was discovered (around 1837),  according to E. William Heinrich’s ” The Minerology of Michigan ” the mineral was known only as a near-surface, supergene species formed under oxidizing conditions in the weathered parts of copper sulfide veins”.  Around that time, Douglas Houghton brought the native copper to light and in 1845, mining began.  When mining operations ceased around 1969, more than 12 billion pounds of native copper and copper sulfides had been mined.

Copper is a metal that you will find often in the jewelry pieces that I design because it is a very recycled metal and also because, in a way, it symbolizes a mining way of life unique to Michigan.  The miners gave brought forth so much copper and also gave Michigan the “pastie” (the meat, potato and rutabaga in a crust that they used to eat deep in the mine).  Copper also is known to have healing properties.  I’ve heard from my customers that they use copper bracelets or rings to relieve pain from arthritis.

Copper Firebrick BeadsCopper firebrick is a bygone from the copper mining days that survives in local jewelry being made today.  I have been using copper firebrick beads in my earrings and key chains recently and I really like how it contrasts with the copper metal.

Copper firebrick is made from the old furnace chimney bricks from the copper processing.  The copper would become vaporous once heated and would permeate the porous firebricks of the chimney.  In the picture, you can see the copper sparkle.   The beads I use in my jewelry are genuinely Michigan and come from bricks that were part of copper furnaces in the Upper Peninsula copper mining industry of Michigan’s past.  This is definitely another opportunity to truly “Wear Michigan”.

For more information about Michigan’s copper industry, check out this article from the Mineralogy Society of America.

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