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 You are located in>Home >> What is Pewter?

What is Pewter?
 

 

 

What is pewter?

Pewter alloy is made of tin, bismuth, antimony, and some- times copper or silver, depending on the alloy your artisan has selected for a specific item. Colonial pewter often contained lead to give it strength. Lead causes old pewter to turn it's characteristic dark gray color. Lead free pewter softens to a very light gray patina. Today, pewter contains no lead. It is completely food safe. Be sure to ask your pewtersmith what alloy is used to make your product.

How is pewter made?

In Colonial America, artisans made pewter articles in three ways; by melting pewter alloy and casting it in molds, by hammering a flat piece of metal into a shape, and by turning on a lathe. A pewtersmith might have also combined the methods, to suit the type of piece or the result desired.

The pewter artisan made his own molds and was, therefore, considered an artist rather than a mechanic giving form to designs of others. The pewtersmith's mold repeats the perfection or shortcomings of the original form.

    

Today's artisans fashion pewter in much the same manner as their predecessors. They craft each piece individually from original molds designed by the artisan. Modern casting molds are often made from silicone rubber rather than bronze. Hardwoods, such as cherry and maple, are used to make the forms that are used to spin flat disks of pewter into shapes on the lathe.

Early pewtersmiths identified their work with a signature that was known as a Touchmark. Touchmarks identified the artisan, the quality of his work, and location of his shop. Today's artisan also identifies his work with his signature Touchmark.

Use and Care of Pewter

To keep a  beautiful bright, shiny, mirror-like finish, the American Pewter Guild recommends a multi-metal polish used to clean brass, chrome, and silver.  You can find it in home-improvement, hardware, and grocery stores. 

If your pewter has a satin finish, with a softer, more mellow patina, wash it in warm soapy water, rinse, and dry with a clean soft 100% cotton cloth to remove dust or finger prints.  Then rub lightly with 4/0 fine-grade steel wool, working in the direction of the grain.  An ultra fine Scotch-Brite™ pad works well also.  Wash again with soapy water, rinse, and dry well.

Do not use steel wool on an antique satin finish.  It could affect the patina and decrease the pewter's value.

Pewter does not withstand high temperatures.  Do not use in a hot oven.  High dishwasher temperatures and harsh detergent may damage pewter.  Be careful when handling.  Pewter may be damaged if dropped.

 Pewter is not a spectacular metal like silver and gold, and it certainly has none of the delicacy of porcelain. But no other material compares to the simple, soft, subdued texture and color of pewter. It blends well with richly carved Renaissance oak in a mansion, or with simple pieces found in a country farmhouse or cottage.

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