Introduction group IB

Group IB includes following elements: Copper - [Cu], Silver - [Ag], Gold - [Au].

Collectively known as the “coinage metals” because of their former usage, these elements were almost certainly the first three metals known to man. All of them occur in the elemental, or native, form and must have been used as primitive money long before the introduction of gold coins in Egypt around 3400 BC.

Cold-hammering was used in the late Stone Age to produce plates of gold for ornamental purposes, and this metal has always been synonymous with beauty, wealth and power. Considerable quantities were accumulated by ancient peoples. The coffin of Tutankhamun contained no less than 112kg of gold, and the legendary Aztec and Inca hoards in Mexico and Peru were a major reason for the Spanish conquests of Central and South America in the early sixteenth century.

Estimates of the earliest use of copper vary, but 5000 BC is not unreasonable. By about 3500 BC it was being obtained in the Middle East by charcoal reduction of its ores, and by 3000 BC the advantages of adding tin in order to produce the harder bronze was appreciated in India, Mesopotamia and Greece. This established the “Bronze Age”, and copper has continued to be one of man’s most important metals.

The monetary use of silver may well be as old as that of gold but the abundance of the native metal was probably far less, so that comparable supplies were not available until a method of winning the metal from its ores had been discovered. It appears, however, that by perhaps 3000 BC a form of cupellation was in operation in Asia Minor and its use gradually spread, so that silver coinage was of crucial economic importance to all subsequent classical Mediterranean civilizations.

The name copper and the symbol Cu are derived from aes cyprium (later Cuprum), since it was from Cyprus that the Romans first obtained their copper metal. The words silver and gold are Anglo-Saxon in origin but the chemical symbols for these elements (Ag and Au) are derived from the Latin argentum (itself derived from the Greek - argos, shiny or white) and aurum, gold.