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Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán | Mexico Map

Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán | Mexico   (click to enlarge map)

Cobre –”copper” in Spanish has been made by the Purepecha Indians of Central Mexico since pre-Columbian times. When the Europeans arrived in the 16th century, they found the Purepecha making domestic implements and weapons from copper found in local, above-ground mines. Father Vasco de Quiroga introduced a few refinements; however, little has changed in how the copper is worked and finished.  Because the copper mines have long been closed, today the smiths gather and melt discarded copper for use in their workshops.

Fair Trade since 1994

Cobre is a Fair Trade company and has been “Fairly Traded” since 1994. We currently work with 7 different workshops that employ 1 to 7 artisans. Most of the people in the workshops are related: fathers, sons, uncles, cousins. Each workshop has its own style. One shop makes only small pieces, maximum 3″ high, while another prefers to work in organic forms; pears, apples, gourds, squashes. Ramon’s work is extremely fine with thin walls, while Antonio’s work is thick-walled and monumental. Each piece is proudly signed by its creator.

The Bonfire Method

  • During the bonfire method, coppersmiths take the recycled copper and patiently heat and hammer it until the metal is “raised”– meaning the bowl or vase walls are formed.
  • The smith then takes a special hammer to finish the piece.
  • Depending upon the amount of salt in the air and how often the copper piece is handled, the metal will oxidize and the finish becomes matte, as the color darkens to deep browns and reds.

The History of Copper in Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán – Mexico

This video portrays the metal smithing process from beginning to end: from melted scrap copper to finished product. It also provides context of the history of the area where the coppersmiths live and work. Spanish language video.