October 31, 2023

A Short History Of Pewter

A Short History of Pewter



Pewter is the 4th precious metal in common use after platinum, gold and silver. It has been used since very early times and its popularity over the millennia is largely due to its durability. Its first recorded use was in an Egyptian tomb in 1450BC and it has been used in Britain since Roman times. Roman pewter, which has been found at various sites in England, was made from a combination of tin and lead.

Originally only affordable by wealthy people, by around the 14th century it was being used more generally in households for plates, utensils, etc. Its use declined in the 18th and 19th centuries with the increasing popularity of china and glass. It also fell out of favour because of its lead content but modern pewter has no lead content and is completely safe. It is now usually made from a combination of around 97% tin alloyed with copper and traces of other metals such as antimony to strengthen it. (Bronze is primarily copper with a small amount of tin).

This combination also gives modern pewter a bright finish compared with the dull grey of antiquated pieces which have a high lead content.

As it is relatively soft, pewter can be easily moulded or shaped. It is manufactured into everyday household objects and also decorative items. It is ideal for giftware, keepsakes and tokens as it can be formed into detailed shapes and the surface finished in a variety of ways such as engraving, hammering and enameling.

It is now a very popular alternative to silver as can be seen in the wide variety of traditionally silver gifts that are now available in pewter. Although less expensive, it is certainly not a cheap substitute. We tend to associate ‘tin’ with ‘tin cans’ but tin is actually an expensive and precious metal.

There is a huge variety of pewter gift items available including key rings, bookmarks and photograph frames. For men, there are tankards, cufflinks and hip flasks and for ladies, jewellery and keepsake boxes to name just a few.

Modern pewter is a joy to care for – unlike silver it doesn’t tarnish and doesn’t need hours of polishing. It develops, over time, a subtle patina that with occasional cleaning will enhance the natural beauty of the metal.

It can be hand-washed in warm water and dishwashing liquid (but NOT citrus such as lemon or grapefruit), rinsed then dried straight away with a soft cloth.

Pewter does not rust but it can stain. Any good metal polish can be used for touch-ups. online gift shop

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A Short History of Pewter