Pewter is a ‘soft’ metal, an alloy made mostly of tin and copper. Read more below about its history and how it has become purer and is now completely safe. Learn what you need to know about using pewter and caring for it.
Pewter has been used for thousands of years, stretching back to Egyptian times but it was first introduced to Britain by the Romans in the second century. It is an alloy made from 85% – 99% tin and is the fourth most precious metal.
Pewter tradition in England
From about the 15th century the composition of pewter in England was carefully controlled by the Worshipful Company of Pewterers who laid down strict specifications for pewter. Until the end of the 18th century, they monitored pewter manufacture throughout England. It was traditionally used in churches and was the main material for tableware in the Middle Ages until the development of porcelain and the introduction of mass produced glass.
Pewter Quality Today
In the past, all pewters were manufactured with varying levels of lead and tin. However, today pewter no longer contains lead, which has been replaced by copper and antimony. This retains its characteristic quality of being a ‘soft’ metal but is now safe to use.
Nowadays pewter manufacture is a skill which still thrives, particularly in England, where the most experienced craftsmen work. And it continues to be popular for the production of hip flasks, tankards and quaichs.