Coppers are unique objects with complex symbolism and history. Typically symbolizing great wealth and status, Coppers are coveted shield-like objects that customarily were equated to measurements of blankets, desired commodities, and eventually currency.
Although it is assumed that Coppers pre-date contact, many of the historical examples remaining today were crafted from material acquired through trade with Euro-Americans. The hulls of early trade ships were sheathed with thin layers of copper which found their way into trade with the local Indigenous communities., Once traders recognized the appeal this material had with Northwest Coast Indigenous peoples, they began to bring thick sheets for bartering. These sheets were then beaten and shaped into the distinctive T-ridge and flared top edge shield-shaped object that is iconic today. Coppers typically depict a clan crest which was often scraped out from a layer of paint applied to the material. In some cases, wealthy chiefs would cut or break a piece of their Copper off at a Potlatch and gift it to an honoured guest or rival.
In contemporary artwork, the symbol of Coppers have been depicted in many ways, including in paintings, prints, and jewelry.