Questions about Pewter?
What is Pewter? Pewter, a soft appealing metal that was prominent in colonial homes, is an alloy. An alloy is a combination of metals which blend to form a completely different metal. Pewter can be dated back to about 1500 B.C. It was extensively used in Roman times. There were writings of a “tin” vessel improving the taste of wine. Even to this day pewter is used for decanters and wine goblets. This early Roman pewter commonly contained up to 30 percent of lead. Lead causes pewter to tarnish and blacken with age giving it an image of “dark grey metal”. Additionally, we now know how dangerous lead is making it unusable for food and drink vessels. Another problem with the lead is that it gives a false value of the pewter, where lead is both cheaper and denser than tin. Today, no reputable pewter manufacturer in the United States use lead in their food contact pewter. The alloy of pewter today consists of mostly tin with smaller amounts of other metals, commonly copper and antimony. It may be used as a liquid metal to cast desired pieces, or it may be rolled into thin sheets for fabrication. Pewter today has a pleasant and attractive white/silvery color and is both practical for use and decorative. How is Pewter made? There are a variety of ways to make pewter. Artisans who “spin” their pewter usually use the thin sheets of metal and put them over wood or metal chucks on a lathe with highly specialized tools to bend this sheet of pewter into the shape they want. Today, there are even some pewterers that will use a press and skillfully make dies to create pieces. Then there are those like the pewterers at Hampshire Pewter that use the liquid form and cast their pieces by pouring the molten pewter into bronze molds. A very large number of artisans, including Hampshire Pewter, also use the centrifugal casting method of small and trinket like item. This technique uses rubber molds spun in centrifugal machine and pouring the molten pewter into the machine. This is a useful way to create figurines and ornaments with fine details. Why choose Pewter? Pewter has had an honored place in society for centuries. It was popular throughout Europe and then came to America with the colonist. Pewter was and is today desired for its versatility, durability, and beauty. Pewter has become the choice to purchase for oneself or as a gift, because of its longevity from generation to generation. Pieces can be passed on generationally and will always be desirable and a classic piece no matter the era.