|Pewter is a metal alloy, traditionally between 85 and 99 percent tin, with the remainder consisting of 1-4 percent copper, acting as a hardener.|
Traditionally, there were three grades of pewter: fine, for eatingware, with 96-99 percent tin, and 1-4 percent copper; trifle, also for eating and drinking
utensils but duller in appearance, with 92 percent tin, 1-6 percent copper, and up to 4 percent lead; and lay or ley metal, not for eating or drinking utensils,
which could contain up to 15 percent lead.
Modern pewter mixes the tin with copper, antimony, and/or bismuth as opposed to lead.
Physically, pewter is a bright, shiny metal that is very similar in appearance to silver. Like silver, pewter will also oxidize to a dull gray over time if left
untreated. Pewter is a very malleable alloy, being soft enough to carve with hand tools, or to be spin cast using centrifugal force into fine jewelry and
recognition pieces. Pewter can be polished to a characteristic luster, further increasing it's perceived value and visual appeal.
Today's fine Pewter, with little or no lead is of finer quality, and alloys that include antimony and bismuth are more durable and shinier. Modern pewter is about
91% tin, 7.5% antimony, and 1.5% copper; the absence of lead makes it safe to use for foods and beverages. The finest of Pewters, used today for manufacture of
jewelry and lead-free product lines, is about 97% Tin, to guarantee only the cleanest and environmentally friendly product lines. The surface of modern pewter is
bluish white with either a bright finish or a soft, satin sheen. It resists tarnish, retaining its color and finish indefinitely.
Pewter is shaped by casting, hammering, or spinning on a mold and is usually simply ornamented with rims, moldings, or engraving, although some Continental display
ware, especially of the Renaissance period in France and Germany, shows intricate ornamentation. Pewter was early used in East Asia, and Roman pieces still exist
today. England was a pewter center from the Middle Ages; pewter was the chief tableware until it was superseded by china. America imported much English pewter in
colonial times and from c.1700 made large quantities. The craft had virtually disappeared by 1850 but was revived in the 20th century.
'Early pewter', with high lead content, darkened with age. With less than 35% lead, pewter was used for decanters, mugs, tankards, bowls, dishes, candlesticks, and
canisters. The lead remained in solid solution with the tin so that the alloy was resistant to the weak acids in foods. Tin-based alloy was used to make domestic
utensils. Pewter dates back at least 2,000 years, to Roman times. Ancient pewter contained about 70% tin and 30% lead.
Such pewter, also called black metal, darkened greatly with age, and the lead readily leached out in contact with acidic foods.
Today's fine 'lead free' Pewter offers, to a talented craftsman, a potential brilliance almost equal to sterling silver in appearance. Add to this it's soft and
pliable nature, and you have a product that is well suited to any project requiring a high perceived value, curved design, and the least amount of weight. It also
is the metal of choice for those involved in the creation of 3D sculptured designs - as it's a pleasure to work with such a refined alloy.
Any reputable manufacturer today should be using only the highest quality of Pewter available, totally 'Lead-Free'. Though harder to come by, and somewhat more
expensive, lead free Pewter is the material of choice for those wise companies truly wanting to supply the finest, and safest, products to the eventual consumer. It
would be wise to ensure that your supplier meets these standards!