How Is Pewter Used?

Pewter is a metal alloy that is easy for craftsmen to cast and work to form a variety of ornamental items or tableware. Unlike the pewter that graced the tables of homes in early America, new pewter is created without lead, so there is no danger of it leeching the heavy metal into the food it touches.

Pewter tableware became popular in Colonial America prior to developments in glass making from the 18th and 19th centuries. The most familiar artifacts from the 17th and 18th centuries are mugs and tankards. Other items include porringers, dishes, plates, spoons, basins, sugar bowls, teapots and beer seines. Later, pewter became a base for silverware, candlesticks and whale-oil lamps.

Pewter is a silver white alloy created primarily from tin. Alloys include small amounts of antimony and copper. Lead in older, low-quality pewter gives the metal a bluish tint.

The metal has a low melting point and is unable to withstand the heat of a dishwasher or oven, so special care must be taken with valued silverware, tea sets or other valued items. Pewter can sometimes tarnish; however, the newer alloys are less affected by this problem and are easier to clean if tarnish develops.