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A Brief History of Pewter

**This is a guest post by Frank Lee**

The first thing you need to know about Pewter is that it is an alloy, which is made mainly of Tin about 85-99%. Why not use Tin itself? Well Tin is an expensive but a highly malleable metal and is too soft to be used in any sort of work on its own, especially if the product is required to maintain its shape. For this very purpose tin is mixed with Copper, Antimony, Bismuth, or even Silver. It can also contain a mix of all of the mentioned metals for added benefits.

Pewter was traditionally used for utensils and the earliest pieces of pewter have been found in Egypt as far back as 1450 BC. These were only second to silver ware which was used by the lords, with wood being the poor man’s companion. However, pewter was expensive because its flow was under strict control of The Worshipful Company of Pewterers in England and Tin is the fourth most expensive metal in common use, in the world. It was so highly prized that pewter sets were marked with initials and family crests so that they could be recognized if borrowed or stolen. Due to the strict control, early Pewterers in the New World had only access to used pewter, which was then melted to create new utensils or jewelry. If you are interested in pewter jewelry, you can search for competitively priced pewter jewelry on Groupon.

Likewise, the Molds used to make pewter utensils were very expensive and were passed down for generations, among Pewterers. Most of the pewter in the 16th and the 17th century was made using lead. It was only after the disastrous effects of lead on human health had been found that their use in making pewter was banned. Due to the poisoning effect of lead, Britannia pewter gained popularity among the masses. It was made using Tin, Copper and Antimony, instead of lead. Another reason for its popularity was the refined craftsmanship and immaculate designs. The main reason behind England’s hold over the pewter industry was its Worshipful Company of Pewterers. It was established back in 1348, and was the reason behind highly regulated pewter industry. Even after Tin was discovered in Cornwall, England in the 15th century; they did not let their high standards go down.

However, the pewter industry was adversely affected by advances in porcelain pottery and electroplating silver in the late 1850s. Britannia and other metal wares were coated with a thin layer of silver by electroplating them. Silver, which has always been a sought-after commodity with regards to wares, eventually phased out the pewterers over the next 20 years. Some of them went bankrupt, while the others switched over to electroplating silver.

There has been a rise in popularity of pewter products, recently. In many countries, it is much sought after due to its historical value and most items are highly prized by antique collectors. It is used as decorative purposes as well as for house gifts. The most common items of use are mugs, plates, spoons, and forks. It is also used to make jewelry. But, it is unlikely that this resurgence will ever restore it to its prior high position in society.

 


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