Coppersmithing: A Centuries-Old Craft Lives On

Published On May 7, 2015

Coppersmithing is one of the world’s oldest trades, dating back 60 centuries by some estimates. In Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico, the native P’urhépecha were considered the world’s most advanced metallurgists of pre-Hispanic times. With skills honed and passed on since the 16th century, 82 percent of the population continues to work in copper crafting – in fact, there are an estimated 2,000 coppersmiths working in more than 300 workshops; many of them are direct descendants of the early P’urhépecha.

Thompson Traders, manufacturers of copper vessels and tubs for the home, has a special connection to Santa Clara del Cobre coppersmithing. Founder and Creative Director Alejandra Ochoa de Thompson grew up in the region, giving her a unique understanding of the people engaged in the craft. Thompson Traders owns the factory in which their products are made and works hand-in-hand with the coppersmiths they employ to create copper designs in the authentic Santa Clara del Cobre tradition.

Hand crafting a copper vessel is a lengthy and laborious process, sometimes requiring weeks from start to finish. The process begins by melting the copper into a pancake-shaped ingot. The ingot is heated in a fire then hammered into shape. After the metal has cooled, the process is repeated – over and over – until the desired design has been achieved.

The human touch is evident in every hand-crafted copper vessel, most notably in the dimples – each representing a single stroke of the coppersmith’s hammer. No two pieces are alike. And every piece perpetuates the coppersmithing legacy of Santa Clara del Cobre, Mexico.