Althogh there is not any written document to tell us when exactly the coppersmith handcraft did begin in BIH. It is considered that it was developed somewhere between 1435 and 1509 year. Many travel writers wrote about this and other crafts in BIH, some of them were the Frenchman Poulett and Evlija Celebija. The craft itself represents the art of making copperware. Tinsmith craft is tightly bonded to coppersmith craft because copperware had to be tined before usage.
There is no precise date of when these crafts developed in Persia and Northern India, where the copperware came from.
But the one thing is sure, and that is the fact, that copperware came to Bosnia during the Ottoman empire. The first notice about tinning and copperware dates from 3rd century B.C. when the Greek philosopher Theophrastos spoke about this craft in his book. According to Hamdija Kresevljakovic, the Romans introduced the Greeks with this craft (and they took over this craft from the Persians).
However, the usage of copperware didn’t live in Europe, so Bosnia remained the only country where such dishes were traditionally used.
Coppersmith and tinsmith craft in BIH, first developed in Sarajevo, and later in Foča and Mostar. In greater area, the Macedonian coppersmiths have been mentioned around the lake Ohrid, who developed their special way of making copperware.
In Sarajevo, all the handcraft stores were situated in the heart of the town, at the Baščaršija. Coppersmiths were situated in the street called Kazandžiluk. As Sarajevo had to fight with poverty, the city never made a fortune, so all the stores were made of wood. The wooden stores, caused many troubles to the craftsmen and to the city itself. Baščaršija was burnt to the ground and had to be rebuild many times. Trying to escape the threatened fire, some of the coppersmiths moved to the Kovači street. All of the coppersmith stores looked the same, about six to ten meters in size. Coppersmith and tinsmith store had an ardia in which copperware was tinned. The most interesting fact about coppersmiths and tinsmiths is that they were not only first craftsmen, but also among the first merchants, and so the work was distributed inside the craft and rarely one craftsman did all the work. It is also known, from the written documents, that one craftsman didn’t make all the dishes. One made copper pans, others made jugs and so on.
The main materials for coppersmith and tinsmith craft were copper, tin and ammonium chloride. Coppers was made out of copper ore, which was melt in so called kalhana, situated at Vratnik. Tin had to be imported from the East and West, from, England and Salonika. Ammonium chloride was also needed for tinning, and what is very interesting the import of it was illegal in our country until few years back, so craftsmen had to find the way to get it in various manners.
After we mentioned raw materials, something needs to be said about tools that are used in making copperware. Hamdija Kresevljakovic said that tools were not so different as they were large in number. There are hammers, pliers, scissors, coil, and calipers, which are often used.
Like every other craft in BIH coppersmith and tinsmith craft had their associations and craft hierarchy, and the head of the association was a master. Besides the masters there were apprentices and pupils (kalfe and šegrti). Coppersmith craft was the first association in which craftsmen began to transform into merchants.
Most of the streets at the Baščaršija, got their names after famous craftsmen which remained till today, like Sabura, Ramići, Hadžišabanovići. Looking back through the history of coppersmith and tinsmith craft, we can realize how important they were in Bosnian tradition. Unfortunately, like many other things, old crafts are on the edge of extinction. The only thing that prevents it from getting totally lost, is love towards handcraft and tradition and a small number of those who dedicate themselves to the old crafts.