Copper (Cu) has a cultural significance as it was the first metal used by man (probably as early as 7000 BC). Neolithic man mined native copper and used it as a substitute for stone; its malleability enabled easy shaping of tools by beating it. Copper was smelted as early as 3500 BC at Timna in Israel. Its property of alloying with other metals (particularly tin) was discovered about 500 years later and heralded the Bronze Age, which started in southern Europe between 3000 and 2500 BC.
Although the manufacture of bronze tools largely fell into disuse with the onset of the Iron Age about 1000 BC, copper continued to be used for its other properties.
As one of only two coloured metals, its beauty makes it highly desirable for making ornaments and its resistance to corrosion makes it suitable for use in, or near the sea.
The growth of the copper industry has been intimately linked with the increasing use of electricity with electrical applications continuing to be the metal's principal use which can be attributed to two physical properties. It is an excellent electrical (and heat) conductor and is ductile enough to be drawn into wire and beaten into sheets without fracturing. Copper is used widely in plumbing components and is a major component of alloys, many of which are harder, stronger and tougher than their individual constituent elements.