A one-pot synthesis of extremely stable, water-soluble Cu quantum clusters (QCs) capped with a model protein, bovine serum albumin (BSA), is reported. From matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization time-of-flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry, we assign the clusters to be composed of Cu 5 and Cu 13 cores. The QCs also show luminescence properties having excitation and emission maxima at 325 and 410 nm, respectively, with a quantum yield of 0.15, which are found to be different from that of protein alone in similar experimental conditions. The quenching of luminescence of the protein-capped Cu QCs in the presence of very low hydrogen peroxide concentration (approximately nanomolar, or less than part-per-billion) reflects the efficacy of the QCs as a potential sensing material in biological environments. Moreover, as-prepared Cu QCs can detect highly toxic Pb 2+ ions in water, even at the part-per-million level, without suffering any interference from other metal ions. © 2011 American Chemical Society.