Copper in the Arts

September 2007

The Statue of Liberty: A Shining Example of Copper's Endurance

By Donna Dvorak

statue of liberty Statue of Liberty

Photograph by Thomas Debray

The grandest dame in the world weighs a mere 225 tons, is 151-feet tall, and isn't encrusted with diamonds and pearls. Nor is she adorned in the latest designer fashions. She wears, in fact, a magnificent cloak of copper that shines brightly in all weather, as she welcomes everyone from the four corners of the earth to the United States. She's also proud of her age as she celebrated her birthday on October 28, representing over 120 years of freedom and democracy.

The Statue of Liberty that stands at Liberty Island, in New York Harbor, was designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, with assistance from Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower. Its purpose was to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence, and was a joint effort between France and America, with America building the pedestal, and France designing the sculpture. Fundraising was important part of its inception, and various methods were used on both sides of the ocean, including lotteries, public fees, entertainment, benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and more.

And, it worked: Eiffel was commissioned to design the iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework that helped the beautiful copper skin to move independently, as it had to be shipped in parts, yet be able to stand upright when it was constructed on Liberty Island. In 1984, a new copper torch covered in 24K gold leaf and lighted by floodlight at night, replaced the original torch.

"The original torch is currently located in the lobby of the monument itself," explains Darren Boch, spokesperson of the National Parks of New York Harbor. "Below the statue is the monument and within that monument we have some exhibits and museum collectibles. When you enter the monument on a tour, the first thing you come face to face with is the original torch that contains copper."

The Statue of Liberty is a shining example of the endurance of copper. The rich, green patina has survived oxidation and the elements-snow, rain, sleet, freezing weather to extreme heat. When closely examined, it showed that oxidation of the copper skin amounted to .005 of an inch in a century! When it was time for renovations, the only copper part of the grand dame that needed work was the torch. She was rebuilt with new copper and patinated before installation to blend with the green hues of the already existing copper.

But, it's not just the outside that contains copper: High-alloy copper saddles and rivets secure her copper skin and skeleton underneath. Proving that copper is, once again, one of the best metals, the copper fastenings are known to provide structural integrity and guard against any galvanic reaction problems.


Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, New York, NY, (866) 782-8834. Learn more about the Statue of Liberty in our Education Section.

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