Archaeometallurgical perspectives on ancient Indian metal technology generally depend on an evolutionary paradigm, within which artefacts and raw materials are viewed from a unifunctional perspective. Within this framework, the early presence of pure copper and elementally variant objects have been regarded as 'discrepant' products of alloy metal and craft deficiencies. The interweaving of folk beliefs and memories of historical events around metal and metal-related artefacts (including slag) has also been ignored. This paper demonstrates that enthnographic and literary evidence allows us to understand such elements more meaningfully as cultural signifiers. In this sense, the production of pure copper artefacts is related to a widely articulated cultural preference for that metal while compositionally variant artefacts are seen as products of the resource-conserving strategy of alloy workers. The paper also foregrounds some events and folk traditions that have transformed metal objects, around which they are focused, into symbols of social beliefs.