A Copper Weather Vane Is an Individual Accent
For a crowning touch of individuality, add a copper weather vane to your home. Weathervanes have been made in literally thousands of shapes, but they all share a common characteristic: they point into the wind.
Our word weathervane is based on the Old English word “fane”, which meant “flag”. Flags were flown to help predict weather by indicating wind direction, to help archers judge their shots more accurately, and, when they were decorated with an individual motif, to announce the presence of an important person. Weathervanes performed many of the same functions. Today, a copper weather vane can both indicate wind direction and announce your individuality to the world.
The earliest recorded weather vane was built by the astronomer Andronicus in 48 B.C.E. Honoring the Greek god Triton, the eight foot long statue had the head and torso of a man and the tail of a fish. It crowned the Tower of Winds in Athens. In Greece and pre-Christian Rome, images of the gods Boreas, Aeolus, Hermes, and Mercury were often incorporated in the weather vanes owned by wealthy landowners.
Weather vanes are also called “weather cocks”, and they have appeared on the top of church steeples for centuries. The story goes that a ninth century pope decreed that every church should display a cock on its roof, to remind parishioners of Jesus’ prophecy that the disciple Peter would denounce him three times before the cock crowed in the morning after the last supper. Cocks are still a favorite image for weather vanes.
Viking weather vanes, used on Viking ships and later on Scandinavian churches, had an unusual quadrant shape topped by a mythological creature. This kind of weathervane existed as early as the 9th century and can be seen today in Sweden and Norway. Viking weather vanes were made of bronze, a copper alloy.
A copper weather vane is a good choice for today’s buildings as well. Copper does not rust, so a copper weather vane needs little or no maintenance. The copper surface is also prized for its beauty. When exposed to the elements, copper gradually interacts with the air and develops a very thin ‘skin’ to stop further chemical change. This patina develops over time, and is considered usually highly prized. The appearance will vary depending on the environment. In moist or acidic conditions, a greenish patina will appear, called verdigris. The Statue of Liberty is a good example of verdigris patina. In dry conditions, the patina will be a warm, rich brown with hints of blue and purple known as a statuary finish. A copper weather vane kept indoors as an ornament will usually develop this kind of patina.
Traditionally, a copper weather vane was made by pressing or hammering a thin sheet of copper into a mold. The mold could be made of wood, hand-carved into a unique design. However, wooden molds were not durable, and iron molds were used to mass produce popular designs.
Today, artisans are free to reproduced beloved traditional weather vanes or to create entirely new sculptural forms. A copper weather vane can give the perfect touch to a restored Victorian house or proudly announce a modern dwelling. In any situation, a copper weather vane will always tell you which way the wind is blowing!