Buying Copper & Brass in Turkey

Copper and brass bowls, plates, cups, trays, pitchers, cooking pots, serving dishes and utensils were common household items in Ottoman times, so you’ll find many of them for sale in Turkey’s bazaars, markets and antiques shops today.

When I first arrived in Turkey in 1967, many of these items, some of them centuries old, were on sale cheap in the bazaars as Turkey’s housewives modernized to aluminum, steel and plastic cookware.

Today there are not as many old pieces on sale as the world’s antiques dealers discovered Turkey’s wealth of old copper and brass shortly after I did (perhaps even through my guidebooks!)

To discover the best places today, you may need the help of personal shopper Marilyn Hill-Henderson.

You may find some of the heavy old pieces still, but mostly what you’ll see are modern copies made of thinner copper. They’re attractive, decorative, useful and relatively inexpensive.

Important! Don’t use copper items for cooking or serving unless the surfaces that contact food are completely covered in bright, silver-colored tin, because copper is poisonous.

It used to be easy to find a tinner (kalayci) in any Turkish town to apply the molten tin to the inside of cooking vessels. Applying the tin is an art: the molten tin is poured into the copper vessel, then swirled and brushed around in only two or three seconds before it cools to form a thin but complete coat. Pure tin is expensive, so a good kalayci can save you money!

Most people buy copper and brass items for decoration rather than cooking, but if you do intent to cook, ask at the shop from which you buy the items where you can get them tinned.


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