Copper lighting - lasting style
Author: Glenn Harper
Published: January 27, 2014
Copper lighting designs seem to rouse more interest than most. Why is that? Man’s relationship with copper dates back at least 10,000 years, when we were already using it to fashion pieces of jewellery. It is our oldest metal, and it’s also vital to our health as an essential trace element.
Perhaps more than anything else, the thing we find so beguiling about copper is its colour. Other than gold, copper is the only metal imbued with natural colour. Every other metal is grey, or white, but none have that naturally warm hue. It’s almost a light source in itself.
Widely used for indoor and outdoor lighting, copper lights can look equally at home in traditional or modern settings and for coastal lighting it has few equals.
Indoor copper lights
The popularity of copper has risen in recent years. Its rich colour and reflective sheen help create a relaxing ambience. Depending on the finishing process, the appearance of copper can vary from bright and shiny to dark and muted, so there’s usually a luminaire to suit any type of décor.
Copper is in fashion, and is a malleable and durable material that lends itself well to a wide variety of designs. Whether it’s an old-fashioned counterweighted pendant or a modern minimalist fitting, there’s something to suit all tastes.
An example of a traditional copper design is the iconic Station Lamp Pendant from century-old Cotswolds manufacturer, David Hunt Lighting. This double-insulated fitting with opal glass diffuser is a beautiful addition to a kitchen island, dining room, or hallway.
Another great kitchen and dining room lighting choice is the Dynamo Pendant, which has a warm antique copper finish and is part of a range of co-ordinated products. The retro style of this fitting is ideal for any traditional or eclectic environment.
The Fisherman 3-Light Pendant is an elegant light which is particularly suited to dining rooms and kitchens. Strikin in appearance, it features a stunning copper construction, and uses old-fashioned seeded glass diffusers for extra appeal.
For the ultimate in minimalist, contemporary design, the copper Plumen Pendant provides the perfect partner for the low-energy designer Plumen bulb.
Quick fact - Copper is not magnetic, which is one way of telling whether or not a product is made of pure copper.
Outdoor copper lights
Copper is an extremely durable material when taken outside. It is one of the few metals that resist airborne salt corrosion in coastal locations. When used outdoors, copper light fittings are either pre-treated to preserve their finish, or they’re left to form their own protective patina by the process of oxidisation.
The Scandinavians are market leaders in outdoor lighting. Informed by their experience of diverse habitats and climates, and temperatures ranging from -40°C to 30°C, the standard of design and manufacturing set by Scandinavian lighting companies is exemplary.
The copper Blokhus Wall Light from Danish manufacturers, Nordlux, is weatherproof, suitable for coastal locations, and comes with a 15-year guarantee against corrosion. This modern fitting is not lacquered, so will quickly begin to oxidise and form a natural patina.
Also from Nordlux is the Tin Twin Wall Light. This is an example of a lacquered copper fitting, which will retain its original look even when subjected to harsh weather. With an IP54 rating, the Tin offers robust protection against dust and rain, and emits an attractive up-and-down pattern of light.
Norwegian lighting company, Norlys, name many of their ranges after European cities. The Paris Exterior Wall Washer is constructed in non-lacquered copper, and delivers a pleasing wall-washing light.
Outdoor copper products can be lacquered, if required, to preserve their original colour. If this is not done, they will always oxidise and gradually form a protective verdigris (green-blue) patina. This is widely regarded as an appealing quality in its own right, adding to the ‘natural’ look of the fitting.
One luminaire with a ready-made verdigris finish is the Sheldon Wall Light. This durable outdoor fitting is perfect for lighting entrances or illuminating a garden. It comes with a glass diffuser and can be shielded by an optional cage accessory (available separately).
Low maintenance lighting
Having already mentioned the protective verdigris layer that forms on non-lacquered copper outdoors, untreated copper will also usually darken indoors. Again, this is a natural process that occurs through mere exposure to air.
Copper is a low-maintenance metal, and should not be subjected to abrasive or acidic cleaning when used outdoors. This will only reduce the lifespan of the fitting, which will immediately begin the oxidisation process again.
Copper utensils such as pots and pans are often cleaned using a lemon or vinegar solution, but decorative items such as light fittings are better preserved using a lacquer.
When used in coastal regions, an occasional dousing with fresh water can be useful for exterior copper light fittings. Please refer to our coastal lighting article to learn more about this and related topics.
A recyclable material
Copper is a very sustainable material and is easily recyclable. Though mankind has a longer relationship with copper than any other metal, only 12% of known reserves have been mined. The recycling rate of copper is higher than that of any other engineering metal.
Feel free to take a look at our full range of Copper lighting.
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