After platinum, gold and silver, pewter is the fourth-most-precious metal in the world. It is a type of metal that is mixed with other metals to be shaped and formed. Pewter has been used since the Bronze Age and is still used today for a number of purposes, because it doesn’t rust or deteriorate. People continue to desire items made of pewter for their durability.
Pewter was first used around the beginning of the Bronze Age in the countries of southwest Asia, between the Mediterranean and Iran. During the 12th century, only wealthy nobles, merchants and church officials were able to afford pewter. By the 14th century, however, pewter was commonly used instead of wood and pottery for tableware and other household items. During the 18th and 19th centuries, its use declined when glass became popular for household items.
In the past, pewter contained harmful amounts of lead, but today’s pewter contains no lead and is safe to use. Pewter’s uses are not only limited to tableware—it is the basis for other items as well, such as decorative objects. It is also a common substitute for silver in everyday household items, because it is easy to store and does not require as much cleaning as silver does.
Pewter was originally made from a combination of lead and tin. At present, pewter is typically 97 percent tin and is alloyed with copper, bismuth and silver, making it safe and suitable for the manufacture of different items.
Working With Pewter
Pewter is simple to work with and can be shaped in a number of ways, including via molds of bell metal, steel or sand. It can be centrifugally formed using rubber or silicone molds. Pewter can also be shaped by being spun on a lathe to create decorative household goods and urns, and by pressing, rolling or forming objects by hand. One benefit of pewter is that it can also be melted to produce other items without losing its quality.
Various items are made from pewter, including such household objects as plates, basins, mugs and utensils. Decorative items are also made of pewter, including jewelry, chess sets, candlesticks, vases and figurines. Aside from the many different uses for pewter, the surface of pewter can be polished, engraved, etched or hammered as well as painted or enameled to give it a different look and feel.