Not all that glitters is gold…

“We are brothers!”

Lahij is a small village on the Caucasus mountains in Azerbaijan, and it is one of the country’s oldest human settlements. The village is renowned for their skills with copperware, as we see in this shop. Nasir (foreground) was hard at work with his own copper art when we met him.

Copper was one of the first metals used by humanity to make tools, jugs, plates, and ceremonial items. This discovery led to our graduation from the Stone Age and enabled even more complex architectural designs in the earliest cities.

Upon discovering that copper becomes harder when it is mixed with tin, the Bronze Age was born. However, copper is still a desirable metal today because it resists corrosion, can be pulled into wires, and conducts electricity. It’s also used to produce eye-catching art and tools, as we see in this little shop!

In this shop, we see a lot of cutlery made from copper. Fun fact: copper is anti-bacterial!

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Creating copperware

The village of Lahij has maintained its traditions such as copper-making, although the population has been dwindling as many seek better employment opportunities in the capital city of Baku. Here, we see Nasir intently shaping  his latest sculpture using simple tools: a hammer and sheet of metal on a stone table.

Copper has the remarkable property of conforming to complex designs, and it produces a green sheen over time when its surface reacts with oxygen. That’s why the Statue of Liberty in NYC looks green: it’s external layer was moulded from copper. Designers even seek this old patina effect in their sculptures.

Needless to say, coppersmiths today are overshadowed by factories that can pump out thousands of the same product at a lower cost. However, the unique attention put into each design – much like a treasured family recipe – leaves a small niche of skilled craftsmen in our midst, even though their trade is shrinking tremendously.

Source of information about copper: http://www.copper.org/

 


Shopkeeper Stories is a photographic documentary of small business owners and their trades around the world, sharing their tips. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram as we continue this journey!


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