With the increasing commercialisation of Valentine's Day it can be difficult to find a truly thoughtful gift. We explore the cultural history of copper and suggest that this year you follow the lead of the goddess of love and chose a gift in copper.
If you’re looking for something a little more meaningful in a Valentine’s Day gift this year, you could do a lot worse than pick out something in copper. Symbol of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation, copper is rich in culture as well as style, giving you plenty of material when you enthral the object of your affections on February 14th.
The Birth of Venus
When Aphrodite, or Venus in her Roman incarnation, rose fully-grown from the sea she found herself on the shores of Cyprus, the beautiful Mediterranean island famous since antiquity for its copper resources. The word copper itself is derived from the Greek name for the island, Kupros, and Cypriots were working with the rich deposits of copper ore characteristic of the region as early as 4,000BC, designing tools, weapons and jewellery.
Over time, it was inevitable that Aphrodite would became synonymous with copper in art and legend. Paintings of the goddess present her hair shimmering in coppery waves, complimenting the turquoise patina of the sea as it delivers her home to Cyprus.
“Her shining hair strung with gleaming beads of shell and copper, Aphrodite glowed with a golden light that rivalled Apollo’s”
Copper and the Gods
It wasn't just in the arts that copper became associated with the goddess of love: in fact the insignia of a circle above a small cross, familiar the world over as a sign of femininity originated in late antiquity as an astrological symbol for the planet Venus and simultaneously as the alchemical symbol for copper.
As if to forge the traditions of art and science in her own enthralling way, when Aphrodite married, she didn’t choose a handsome warrior, but the Greek god of metalworking: Hephaestus. The skill of Hephaestus in working with copper is legendary: he designed Hermes' winged helmet and sandals, Agamemnon's staff of office, Achilles' armour, Helios's chariot, Eros's bow and arrows and of course, the famed girdle of his wife, Aphrodite.
Contemporary Gifts of Copper
If you are looking for a gift that will be cherished for years to come, copper is a great choice. Prized since antiquity for its beauty and versatility, copper develops a patina over time that is unique to its user, yet can be polished to a shine that will always renew that sparkle.
2. Hemingway, Colette, and Seán Hemingway. “Cyprus—Island of Copper.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2004)
3. Herald, N. F. Houck, Lulu Press, Inc, 2015