If you see a little dot in the center of a round pan, it’s a sign that it was hand-made.
Sara Dahmen of House Copper brought this to my attention. I’d seen it on a couple of my pots and thought it was some kind of defect: a tiny circular depression in the very center of the base of a round pot.
It’s not a mistake — it indicates the pan was cut from a sheet of copper by hand. Up through the 19th century, a coppersmith used a compass to mark a circle on a sheet of copper and then use shears to cut it out. The dot is the mark left by the point of the compass as it turned. The industrial revolution brought machine presses that could punch perfect circles out of copper but many French chaudronneries appear to have cut sheets by hand into the early 20th century.
Here’s a closeup of one such dot. It’s a little round divot, maybe a millimeter in diameter, at the exact center of the lid on one of my pots.
Here’s the same dot, zoomed out, so you can get an idea how small it is.
There’s also a dot on the copper side of the lid.
The pot that fits this lid also has a dot, but not on the outside.
If you happen to have any copper pots or pans with a dot like this, it’s not a defect at all, but rather a sign of the piece’s hand make. Cherish it.