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Why does copper cost so much?


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#1 Shalmanese

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 09:16 AM

Copper pans regularly go for rather high prices around the place and is regularly considered the king of heat distribution in cookware. But why does it have to cost so damn much? I see big sheets of copper lying around chemistry labs and machine workshops everywhere, about 2.0 to 3.0mm which is how thick pans are. A couple of whacks with a mallet and I could a very dodgy copper pan for all of $2. So why do copper cookware pieces regularly fetch over $100? Whats the big secret?
PS: I am a guy.

#2 mike_r

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 10:40 AM

i could be wrong but i think the really expensive pots are generally made of two or more layers of material sandwiched together for more even heat distribution...this could be why. but i agree, the cost of good cookware can be a lottle silly sometimes.

#3 jess mebane

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 11:11 AM

Don't know of any copper secrets, it's just faster at my house to go copper than most anything else, even the microwave (in certain crucial applications). You should ask McGee when you get a chance......... :smile:

#4 WHT

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 11:11 AM

Copper is a commodity and is priced accordingly. If you look in the financial section at the price per pound for copper, zinc and steel you will notice they have different values. Copper is 2-5 times the cost of aluminum and steel. Accordingly objects made of the metals are priced in ratio to base cost.

Then from there you get into ornamental and brand differences. These can not be valued the same way but the material can.
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#5 derricks

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 12:17 PM

I bought all my copper in various trips to Paris, and the price I paid for it there was roughly equivalent to what I'd pay for non-copper cookware here. I'm not willing to attribute the 2x cost here to just shipping costs, but perhaps it's one of those high-markup/low-volume things here in the U.S. Because most people don't buy copper, they have to charge more for it to cover their costs.

Though WHT's comments about commoditization make a lot of sense as well.
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#6 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 12:32 PM

There is also the fact that copperware, unlike aluminum or other metal pots, need to be lined with tin. You could not actually hammer out your own pot and use it as it would be toxic.

When I was starting out as a metalsmith (it is what my Master's degree is in), we were taught in copper because it IS so soft and malleable and easy to learn on. But none of those items are food safe without being plated in tin or sterling silver.

#7 andiesenji

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 12:52 PM

Or stainless steel.
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#8 McDuff

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 01:20 PM

Or you could just go ahead and make the damn pot, in much the same spirit of Ferdinand Point's comment that painting the garden gate allows a person to claim to be a painter.

#9 Shalmanese

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Posted 31 October 2004 - 11:33 PM

Copper is a commodity and is priced accordingly. If you look in the financial section at the price per pound for copper, zinc and steel you will notice they have different values. Copper is 2-5 times the cost of aluminum and steel. Accordingly objects made of the metals are priced in ratio to base cost.

Then from there you get into ornamental and brand differences. These can not be valued the same way but the material can.

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But how much of the copper pan cost is the cost of raw copper? I would assume not much unless they used some special type of copper that's different from what's used in ordinary machine workshops. Is lining copper with SS any harder than lining aluminum with SS?

If copper pots in europe cost much the same as non-copper pots and there are clear benifits to copper, why is it so unpopular in the US? AFAIK, Falk Culinar is a US based company and make their pots in the US so shipping can't really be the reason.
PS: I am a guy.

#10 Sid Post

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Posted 01 November 2004 - 02:08 AM

But how much of the copper pan cost is the cost of raw copper? I would assume not much unless they used some special type of copper that's different from what's used in ordinary machine workshops. Is lining copper with SS any harder than lining aluminum with SS?


The cost of a good kitchen knife isn't in the value of the steel of the blade or paper/resin of the handle. I can grab a piece of carbon steel from the shop and shape it into a knife and it will work as such. It won't have the stain resistance (rust) of a German blade or the refined design. It would cut though.

If copper pots in Europe cost much the same as non-copper pots and there are clear benefits to copper, why is it so unpopular in the US? AFAIK, Falk Culinar is a US based company and make their pots in the US so shipping can't really be the reason.


Ignoring issues such as VAT (Value Added Taxes) and Customs to the mix in addition to trans-Atlantic shipping, marketing and access are at work here. I can get Falk Culinair (in small groups of 2 or 3 pans) for the same price I can get premium All-Clad. Even off Ebay, All-Clad Copper Core is over $200USD plus shipping (which is often marked up) per pan. The Falk Culinair pans are typically about ~$150USD.

Now, where do you buy true copper pans? Wal-mart, Target, shopping malls, specialty stores? The volume is low so, where is the mass market discount? Calphalon has gotten much cheaper now that it has gone mainstream at every shopping mall anchor store and places like Amazon.com. I doubt margins are as thin on copper pans as they are on Calphalon.

#11 mharpo

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Posted 02 November 2004 - 06:54 AM

I think the reasons for copper cookware prices being relatively high have all been touched on except for the cost associated with bonding stainless steel to copper. This applies to almost all stainless lined copper since Falk bimetal is used.

To permanently bond the .008" layer of stainless to the copper, it is first rolled together under 850 tons of pressure per sq. cm. Next, the sheets are placed into an oven and over a three day period are heated to 1,100 degrees centigrade and brought back to ambient temperature. The bimetal is manufactured in Germany for Falk and is sold to other manufacturers like Mauviel. (Bourgeat no longer make their own copper cookware).

So, you have the bimetal cost, manufacturing costs, shipping costs from Belgium, import duties and taxes, warehousing costs, and shipping cost to the customer. And, as someone mentioned, it is a low volume product making it necessary to get a higher margin.

OTOH, good copper cookware will last you lifetime, unlike many other types. It is a sizeable investment, but one well worth it.

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#12 slkinsey

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Posted 02 November 2004 - 08:02 AM

OTOH, good copper cookware will last you lifetime, unlike many other types.  It is a sizeable investment, but one well worth it.

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This is an especially good point. Stainless lined heavy copper cookware is expensive, although it's not all that expensive compared to brands like All-Clad and Demeyere -- but it is expensive. However, the cost needs to be put into perspective: An 11 inch sauciere (aka curved sauteuse evasee) from Falk will run you 235 bucks. If you keep it for 20 years, thats a cost of around 12 bucks a year. For one of the very best pans made. It's like being able to drive around a Ferrari for a hundred bucks a year. What else can you get for 235 bucks? Well... you can get a good DVD player. That might last you around 5 years if you're lucky. Or, hey... it might get you one-fifth of an okay laptop. That might last you three years. Now, I happen to use my copper pans a lot more often than I use my DVD player and I'll still be using them when DVDs are as obsolete as Betamax. So, in my opinion, the money was better spent on the pans.
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#13 jayt90

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Posted 02 November 2004 - 08:40 AM

If you're looking for copper pans and pots on the cheap side, the lining will probably be tinned, as this can be done in a small shop. But many cheaper copper pans from third world countries such as India, China, or even Portugal, use too thin copper, and the tin may wear out quickly. My French made tinned pans have lasted for several years before re-tinning was necessary.
I once acquired several well made pans made in Chile, $20. each, from Presidents Choice. They are superb, but it was a one time deal when PC Dave was still travelling extensively to find gems like this. (Apparently the travel expenses were too great for Weston's appetite, and Dave Nichol was forced out.)

Perhaps one reason copper pans have not caught on in North American kitchens is the poor performance of copper bottomed stainless steel pans made by Revere and others. They were real scorchers, as I recall.

The current trend to a copper/aluminum sandwich on the bottom of a stainless pot may be better, but there is a lot of cosmetic hype that goes with it.

#14 andiesenji

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Posted 02 November 2004 - 09:08 AM

OTOH, good copper cookware will last you lifetime, unlike many other types.  It is a sizeable investment, but one well worth it.

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This is an especially good point. Stainless lined heavy copper cookware is expensive, although it's not all that expensive compared to brands like All-Clad and Demeyere -- but it is expensive. However, the cost needs to be put into perspective: An 11 inch sauciere (aka curved sauteuse evasee) from Falk will run you 235 bucks. If you keep it for 20 years, thats a cost of around 12 bucks a year. For one of the very best pans made. It's like being able to drive around a Ferrari for a hundred bucks a year. What else can you get for 235 bucks? Well... you can get a good DVD player. That might last you around 5 years if you're lucky. Or, hey... it might get you one-fifth of an okay laptop. That might last you three years. Now, I happen to use my copper pans a lot more often than I use my DVD player and I'll still be using them when DVDs are as obsolete as Betamax. So, in my opinion, the money was better spent on the pans.

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And you can pass them along to your children and grandchildren. I have copper pots which my grandfather brought from England in 1919 and they were at least a generation old at that time. The oldest one is the old-fashioned type of saucepan that is wider at the bottom narrows to a "waist" about 2 inches below the top edge then flares a bit at the top. It has a cast iron strap around the narrow point and the handle is attached to this. I have it put away because it needs retinning. It was made before 1862 because my great grandmother bought it in France that year while on her wedding journey.
I have collected quite a few pieces that may be even older but as I do not have the provenance of the pieces I can't be sure.
I expect the stainless lined pots and pans will last even longer, after all, there are copper vessels in museums from Roman times that are still intact and usable.

We don't really know how well the alloys of stainless will hold up over time because it has not been around that long. We do know that the plain aluminum will pit and degrade with just normal exposure in cooking. The aluminum alloys are better but even they will break down with long exposure to acids. It also becomes brittle after a number of years. I have had several pieces of cast aluminum break when dropped on a concrete floor.
(if this ever happens to you, don't toss them in the trash, take them to a metal shop and have them cut the sides off so you have the bottom to use as a flame-tamer, or in the case of one supersized oval Magnalite roaster, a two-burner griddle for my portable stove. In this case it dropped on the handle on the end and a semicircular piece broke out of the end.)

Once you get a piece of good copper and see how well it works, how quickly it heats when compared to other cookware, you will be seriously hooked on it. One of my friends is married to a Frenchman and she has told me that when they were in France they met some young people, just setting up their household, and saving to buy their first copper cookware. They had an ancient car that was falling to bits but thought it more important to buy the copper pan than fix the car. She said she shared their priorities.
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#15 McDuff

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Posted 02 November 2004 - 09:39 AM

I find this all very interesting, as I have a bunch of copper, mostly stainless lined, but I do have two gorgeous pieces I never use. Both are tinned, one is a bail handled pot with cover 9 1/2 winde by 6 deep and the other is a very heavy pot with a cast iron handle 8 wide by 4 1/2 deep. I'm scared to use them because I'm, afraid the tin will wear out. I used to use the larger one and the tin did wear in one spot so I had it retinned, but it's never seen heat since. What's the bsdis of my irrational fear? they are both high quality and would probably look cool on the stove with something cooking in them.

#16 WHT

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Posted 02 November 2004 - 04:27 PM

Copper is a commodity and is priced accordingly. If you look in the financial section at the price per pound for copper, zinc and steel you will notice they have different values. Copper is 2-5 times the cost of aluminum and steel. Accordingly objects made of the metals are priced in ratio to base cost.

Then from there you get into ornamental and brand differences. These can not be valued the same way but the material can.

View Post


But how much of the copper pan cost is the cost of raw copper? I would assume not much unless they used some special type of copper that's different from what's used in ordinary machine workshops. Is lining copper with SS any harder than lining aluminum with SS?

If copper pots in europe cost much the same as non-copper pots and there are clear benifits to copper, why is it so unpopular in the US? AFAIK, Falk Culinar is a US based company and make their pots in the US so shipping can't really be the reason.

View Post

Spot nonferrous metal prices Wednesday.

Aluminum - 80.7 cents per lb., London Metal Exch. Wed.

Copper - 152.00 cents Cathode full plate, U.S. destinations.

Copper 129.30 cents per lb., N.Y. Merc spot Wed.

Lead - $965.00 per metric ton, London Metal Exch.

Zinc - 56.25-56.50 cents lb., delivered.

Gold - $411.25 Handy & Harman (only daily quote).

Gold - $413.20 troy oz., NY Merc spot Wed.

Silver - $6.875 Handy & Harman (only daily quote).

Silver - $6.878 troy oz., N.Y. Merc spot Wed.

Steel - $204.00 Ton
Mercury - $425.00 per 76 lb flask, N.Y.

Platinum - $839.00 troy oz., N.Y. (contract).

Platinum $835.80 troy oz., N.Y. Merc spot Wed.

n.q.-not quoted, n.a.-not available r-revised


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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#17 jayt90

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Posted 03 November 2004 - 06:08 PM

I'm scared to use them because I'm, afraid the tin will wear out. I used to use the larger one and the tin did wear in one spot so I had it retinned, but it's never seen heat since. What's the bsdis of my irrational fear?

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There is is danger when acidic foods are cooked on copper with no lining, or a flawed lining. A green coating which is toxic will result (Cupric sulphate?), and may get mixed into the food. If the copper pan is slightly untinned from wear and tear, it is still possible to cook bland non acidic foods, such as fricasee, or fish finished with cream. Just don't add wine or sherry vinegar at the last minute. I have had no ill effects using pans at home with slight tin imperfections as long as I keep tomatoes, lemons, wine
etc. out of the mix.

As far as preserving the tin is concerned, I treat it like Teflon: but eventually it will wear down and retinning is neccesary. A small price to pay to get copper's thermal advantage.

Confectioners can use unlined copper vessels with no danger, as the sugar will neutralize any acid introduced.

#18 Rien

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Posted 04 November 2004 - 09:06 AM

I just read that commodity prices of copper have been dropping. I believe they have been climbing for some years and have been at or near an all-time high. I wonder if this will eventually be reflected in cookware pricing. But, as previously mentioned, raw material costs are a small portion of the price, so any decline in material costs will only yield small savings.

rien

#19 slkinsey

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Posted 04 November 2004 - 09:23 AM

I find this all very interesting, as I have a bunch of copper, mostly stainless lined, but I do have two gorgeous pieces I never use. Both are tinned, one is a bail handled pot with cover 9 1/2 winde by 6 deep and the other is a very heavy pot with a cast iron handle 8 wide by 4 1/2 deep. I'm scared to use them because I'm, afraid the tin will wear out. I used to use the larger one and the tin did wear in one spot so I had it retinned, but it's never seen heat since. What's the bsdis of my irrational fear? they are both high quality and would probably look cool on the stove with something cooking in them.

View Post

If the tin is fresh and in good condition, there's no reason not to use them. The main problem with tin is that it does wear out eventually. It's also a problem because tin melts at around 450F/232C. That's not very high, and it's quite easy to get a pan above this temperature -- especially if you are sautéing. Once that happens, you've got a retinning on your hands. So, as long as you use moderate heat and are careful to use soft "teflon-friendly" tools, you should go ahead and use them.

There's no reason not to use tin-lined copper you already own. I just think that, since we now have the ability to buy significantly more durable stainless lined copper, there are plenty of reasons not to buy new tin-lined copper.
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#20 WHT

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Posted 05 November 2004 - 01:46 PM

I just read that commodity prices of copper have been dropping. I believe they have been climbing for some years and have been at or near an all-time high. I wonder if this will eventually be reflected in cookware pricing. But, as previously mentioned, raw material costs are a small portion of the price, so any decline in material costs will only yield small savings.

rien

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This is due in part to China producing more copper at cheap prices.
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#21 mharpo

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 10:57 AM

While the cost of copper as a commodity may be dropping, the dollar has weakened significantly in the last year or so. It has a huge impact on our margins and we are likely to have to raise prices as a result. I've avoided doing it this year, but will have to strongly consider it in '05. :sad:

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#22 jsolomon

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 11:39 AM

While the cost of copper as a commodity may be dropping, the dollar has weakened significantly in the last year or so.  It has a huge impact on our margins and we are likely to have to raise prices as a result.  I've avoided doing it this year, but will have to strongly  consider it in '05.  :sad:

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Is there an eGullet discount? My mother would love a saucier for X-mas
I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

#23 =Mark

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 12:00 PM

i could be wrong but i think the really expensive pots are generally made of two or more layers of material sandwiched together for more even heat distribution...this could be why.  but i agree, the cost of good cookware can be a lottle silly sometimes.

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No sillier than Reidel stemware, which is essentially made of sand.

Biggest scam since bottled water for a buck and a half a pint...
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#24 RETREVR

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 06:44 PM

I would love to have a rack of copper pans. The price is a little steep for me, so a couple is all I really need. I have yet to think of a recipe that I have said to myself, " dam, I can't make that with a stainless pan. I have to have copper". I know that the performance of copper is great, but it is not worth the premium for me at this point. I do think that a lot of the attraction is cosmetic for many. It is a bitch to keep clean if you want the bright look (not that I keep my pans clean anyway). A quality stainless pan will last me longer than I care to use it. I would rather spend the extra money on cutlery.
Yesterday I bought a big williams-sonoma two-handled roasting pan at auction for five bucks. I am sure they get over a hundred for them, and this one is mint.

#25 slkinsey

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 07:17 PM

Well... different people have different priorities. I think you won't find too many owners of stainless lined heavy copper cookware who regret the purchase.
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#26 irodguy

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 08:46 PM

There is no comparison between my Mauviel and Allclad. The Mauviel holds it heat much better. It's simply awesome stuff.
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#27 winesonoma

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Posted 09 November 2004 - 10:04 PM

Well... different people have different priorities.  I think you won't find too many owners of stainless lined heavy copper cookware who regret the purchase.

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Give me all that I can afford, I got the starter fry pan and sauce pan (Falk) and have moved on to one piece a year as a present to myself. Nothing like it. :biggrin:
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#28 RETREVR

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 04:53 PM

Turns out I can afford copper. I just picked up a 2qt copper sauce pan and a copper and porcelin bain marie for just under $25. They are both tinned and in good shape. These are not the heavy all-clad type pans, but they are not el cheapo either. All peices are rivetted with brass hardware. Sometimes you just get lucky I guess.

#29 jayt90

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 05:33 PM

Turns out I can afford copper.  I just picked up a 2qt copper sauce pan and a copper and porcelin bain marie for just under $25.  They are both tinned and in good shape. These are not the heavy all-clad type pans, but they are not el cheapo either.  All peices are rivetted with brass hardware. Sometimes you just get lucky I guess.

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That's why I'm always looking for tinned copper in second hand stores, flea markets, garage sales, ebay etc. You got a very good deal, and they should work well for you.

What I don't understand is the reference here, and many other threads on eg, for All-Clad?

What is it? Why is it coveted? How is it better than say, top grade Lagostina?
Just curious...

#30 RETREVR

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Posted 12 November 2004 - 06:36 PM

http://www.allclad.com/
Just a pricey heavy duty maker. Not the end-all by any means. Looks to be better than lagostina....but I own niether.

Edited by RETREVR, 12 November 2004 - 06:38 PM.