Aluminium v Copper
In 1802, a gas lamp flickered to life on Birmingham’s Soho Foundry steamworks wall, and the first public display of gaslighting was born. Under the warm glow of this early streetlamp, Scottish inventor William Murdoch quietly ignited a brighter future for us all. Little did we realise what a fond place traditional lighting would continue to hold in our hearts.
Now more commonly and nostalgically known as heritage lanterns; our modern day counterparts still offer a stunning display of Victorian craftsmanship; typically handmade using highly polished copper sheets.
As well as being naturally attractive, copper is a tough and corrosion-resistant material offering incredible longevity. However, for projects where cost is a key consideration; copper can be prohibitive.
What if we could produce a similar effect at a fraction of the price?
Well, we can.
Our heritage lanterns look exactly the same as their copper counterparts but are constructed from aluminium.
Physically, chemically, and mechanically, aluminium is a metal like copper. It can be melted, cast, formed, and machined similarly but is significantly cheaper – you can expect to pay a third less.
And we believe aluminium offers many more benefits versus copper.
Let’s take a look.
Saving our depleting resources
The campaign for manufacturers to move to a resource-efficient, clean and circular economy is growing in momentum.
As manufacturers, we need to be responsible for our choice of materials.
The car industry’s electrification, energy storage, and 5G networks have skyrocketed the global demand for copper. Natural resources are depleting at an unsustainable rate; this year, copper supply is expected to move into deficit, and recovery isn’t likely any time soon.
This has several effects on the industry and our planet.
Copper prices are on the rise. Worldwide reserves continue to be depleted. As we all know, when a scarce commodity is in demand, there is a risk of theft; a downfall of copper fixtures, they could be stolen for the value of the raw material.
Aluminium offers a viable, more conscious alternative.
Copper work - a craft at risk of dying
A coppersmith, also known as a redsmith, is a person who works with copper. With melting points of 1984°F, copper work requires a specific skill, which not many of us possess anymore.
Copper also has to be pre-treated, which means a longer manufacturing time, leading to longer lead times.
On the other hand, aluminium has a lower melting point of 1221°F, is soft, lightweight, fire-proof, and heat-resistant, plus easy to work into new shapes.
That standout copper colour
We can all recognise copper at a glance. However, it has to be lacquered to maintain that oh so recognisable colour, or within a short time, it will turn a dull brown before the blueish-green Verdigris appears.
While it may not be the same, we can closely match copper’s tones by powder coating the aluminium – you’d be nicely surprised by the results.
Myths and Truth
Copper is long-lasting, weathers well and is ideal for seaside applications, all very true.
Aluminium has been pegged as not holding up against salt and corrosive atmospheres, branding it ill-equipped for coastal applications. But this can be resolved with a robust, proven polyester powder coated finish.
Our heritage lanterns have been 1000-hour salt-spray tested, ensuring they are strong enough to guarantee performance (we are the only manufacturer to offer a 12-year warranty) even in coastal locations.
Furthermore, contrary to popular belief, aluminium is 100% recyclable, and during the recycling process, it retains 100% of its original properties.
Robust and long-lasting
Copper is well known for durability, strength, and protection against the elements – but it isn’t immune to corrosion.
Aluminium shouldn’t be discounted. As one of the lightest commercial metals available, with a weight of 2.7 g/cm and a density of approximately one-third of steel or copper, it dramatically cuts manufacturing costs.
Not only is it light, but it is also easy to manage and weather-proof – it’s clever, it self-protects through a stable oxide layer, and, when following some simple design guidelines, its corrosion resistance is superior.
We could rave about the properties for some time, it’s immune to the harmful effects of UV rays, ensuring optimal performance over a very long lifetime.
We have been led to believe that copper is much stronger than aluminium, however, it can be as strong as we need it to be. Its strength can be adapted to the application requirements by modifying the composition of its alloys.
Aluminium is an excellent heat conductor and, in relation to its weight, is almost twice as good a conductor as copper. It also acts as a superb heat sink for many applications that require heat to be drained away rapidly, so great for working with LED lights.
Aluminium is non-magnetic, making it useful for electrical shielding for connectivity.
We believe that aluminium presents an excellent alternative to copper in the manufacture of heritage lanterns. One which offers a similar aesthetic to copper yet is cheaper, more sustainable, and equally suitable in terms of strength and performance.
Convinced? Please take a look at our popular heritage range below ⬇
Unit F1 Grafton Way
West Ham Industrial Estate