August 6, 2012

Copper in Northwest Coast Native Art

Copper artwork and jewellery are becoming more common in the Northwest Coast market, which is a bit of a strange trend when considering that copper was the only metal quarried and processed by the First Nations in British Columbia prior to European contact. Long valued as a symbol of status and wealth, copper was frequently beaten into large panels, or shields, which were passed down from generation to generation. These shields were (and still are) aptly named "coppers". The bentwood box depicted in the image to the right, by Haida-Tsimshian artist Marie Oldfield, has been adorned with abalone cut-outs of these coppers. The box itself, titled Give Away, has also been embellished with copper paint and symbolizes the valued role of both boxes and copper in the Northwest Coast potlatch. This steam-bent box measures 6 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 4 1/2" and is available for $900.00 CAD.

A number of jewelers are also beginning to use copper more often. It is a soft metal, but this makes it slightly more challenging to engrave cleanly, when compared to sterling silver or gold. From cuff bracelets to earrings, Lattimer Gallery always strives to carry a selection of copper items to compliment our broad range of gold and silver pieces. The image to the left shows a pair of embossed copper dangle earrings by Haida artist, Gwaai Edenshaw. Measuring 2 5/8" long and 1/2" wide, these elegant Sinx earrings are available from Lattimer Gallery for $120.00 CAD. Copper is durable, warm in colour, and has been proven to carry certain health benefits.

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