Pewter Used to Be the Poor Man’s Silver!

Today, Pewter is still used in many decorative things, like collectible statues, replica coins, monuments, etc. Use of pewter was common from the Middle Ages up until the various developments in glass-making during the 18 and 19th centuries Pewter was the chief tableware until the making of china.

Mass production of glass products has seen glass universally replace pewter in day-to-day life. Pewter artifacts continue to be produced, mainly as decorative or specialty items. Pewter was also used around East Asia.

Roman pewter items are very rare, although some are still in existence. Pewter gradually stopped being used and by 1850, it was just about gone. By the 20th century, however, the craft was brought back into existence.

Physically, pewter is a bright, shiny metal that is very similar in appearance to silver. Like silver, pewter will also oxidice to a dull gray over time if left untreated.

Pewter is a very malleable alloy, being soft enough to carve with hand tools, and it also takes good impressions from punches or presses. Some types of pewter pieces, such as candlesticks, would be turned on a metal lathe. Pewter has a low melting point, and duplication by casting will give excellent results.

Unlidded mugs and lidded tankards may be the most familiar pewter artifacts from the late 17th and 18th centuries, although the metal is also used for many other items including plates, dishes, basins, spoons, measures, flagons, communion cups, teapots, sugar bowls, cream jugs and porringers.

A porringer is a small, usually pewter, dish that colonial Americans and Europeans ate their porridge or other hot or cold dishes from such as gruel. They were usually about 4" to 6" in diameter; 1½" to 3" deep; had a flat, decorated handle at one end, which usually had the owner's initials engraved on it; and occasionally came with a lid.

All authentic porringers today are considered to be rare - especially those made in America prior to the American revolution. Since then there became a shortage of lead for making bullets, the Americans and the British are said to have raided the nearby kitchens of all their pewterware, which was thought to be soft enough to use for their purposes!

In the early 19th, changes of fashion witnessed a decline in the use of pewter flatware, but increased production of both cast and spun pewter tea sets, whale-oil lamps, candlesticks, etc. Later in the century, pewter alloys were often used as a base metal for silver-plated objects.

Now a days the manufacturing of pewter can be described like this:

It is first cast by hand in an ancient manner with plaster moulds often taken from antique originals but also modern design. Thereafter the casting is passed a number of skilled finishers who impart something to the final appearance of every individual piece. Using a variety of tools each piece is burnished and buffed with brick dust and fine steel wool until it has acquired a high polish. Originally pewter was kept polished so it looked like silver.

Some more facts about pewter:

Pewter is a metal alloy, traditionally between 85 and 99 % tin, with the remainder consisting of 1-4 % copper, acting as a hardener, with the addition of lead for the lower grades of pewter and a bluish tint. There were three grades: Fine, for eatingware, with 96-99 % tin, and 1-4 % copper; Trifle, also for eating and drinking utensils but duller in appearance, with 92 % tin, 1-4 % copper, and up to 4 % lead; and Lay or Ley metal, not for eating or drinking utensils, which could contain up to 15 % lead. Modern pewter mixes the tin with copper, antimony and/or bismuth as opposed to lead. Bismuth and zinc can also be added to pewter. Pewter cannot be used to make tools.

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