Post 541  -by Gautam Shah


Pewter Teapots

Pewter Mugs

Pewter is a metal alloy with Tin as the chief constituent. Pewter denotes a vast array of alloy-compositions of many different metals in various measures. Pewter metal of the ancient times contained about 70% Tin and 30% Lead. Both were known as distinct metals since 3000 BC. (Tin shows a chemical similarity to the periodic table group-14 element -the lead). Pewter has been preferred material for craft and utility items, mainly due to its low melting temperature, and the fine finish, it offered. Pewter with high lead content, offered a shining but tarnishing black metal that darkened further on aging. Primitive pewter with lead was hazardous for food storage. And as a result the composition pewter has seen many changes, with efforts directed towards eliminating the lead.


Pewter Tableware

Pewter Napkin Rings Flickr image by Didriks

Pewter as craft material offered certain advantages such as: low melting point, malleability, ductility, easy workability and highly crystalline silvery-white surface. Pewter can be crafted by cold-working, as it does not cause hardening like other metals, which often requires annealing. Pewter items are usually cast, and then further finished by hammering, turning on a lathe, burnishing, and sometimes engraving. Pewter alloys were rolled into sheets from cast blobs. Such sheets could be shaped, deformed, spun and welded with tin. The presence of tin provides affinity to all embellishing crafts metals like brass, gold, silver, etc.

Detail on a pewter fork handle from Norway, showing three scenes: King Olaf II of Norway, his men, and a Viking ship Wikipedia image by Author Goldenrowley

Pewter Continental Dollar, 1776 (proposed)

Romans used pewter utilities like cups, plates, dishes, etc. and medallions, rings, armlets, etc. But the use diminished due to lead poisoning. Use of tin with natural ‘impurities’ like bismuth, antimony, copper and silver was known but not clearly understood. Pewter utilities never formed cooking vessels as tin and lead had low softening point of temperature, besides an increased health hazard of lead. Pewter, in spite of its easy workability was primarily a utilitarian metal, and less exploited for its ornamental capacity. Pewter work finished like silver, and was passed off as silver. It was used where precious metal items were too expensive and theft prone. In the 11th C poor churches began to use pewter in place of silver items. Lower classes across Europe, were still using it for eating and drinking. Trade guilds in the 12th C in France and elsewhere began to control the constituents of pewter.

Components and products of pewter manufacture Wikipedia image

By 15th C, the Worshipful Company of Pewterers began to standardize pewter. The first, known as ‘fine metal’, with tin and copper, was marked for tableware. The second, known as ‘trifling metal or trifle’, with fine metal and 4% lead, was designated for holloware. The third, known as ‘lay or ley metal’, with 15% of lead, was meant for non food or drink utilities.

Rockport Pewtersmith Wikipedia image

Modern pewter is without any lead, but with about 91% tin, 7.5 % antimony, and 1.5% copper. Alloying materials like antimony and bismuth make it more durable. The surface of modern pewter is bluish white with soft satin to high sheen finish. It resists tarnishing, while retaining its colour and finish. Without any lead, it is safe for food and drinks. Britannia metal consists of tin, antimony, and copper.

Teapot, Britannia metal, Wikipedia image by Author Daderot

Pewter items are cast, moulded, pressure die-cast or shaped. Pewter was fashioned by hammering (workers called Sadware men) or by casting (workers called Hollow-ware men). Pewter wares were earlier cast in metal moulds, but now Silicon, Teflon and rubber moulds are for mass production. Few items are painted, enamelled, gilded, and inlaid or embellished with other metals and materials. Pewter was the chief tableware until the making of porcelain. Pewter items include household goods, (porringer, plates, tea sets, dishes, basins, spoons, measures, flagons, communion cups, teapots, sugar bowls, beer steins, and cream jugs), candlesticks bases, church vessels, snuffboxes, personal adornments, organ pipes dishes, statuettes and figurines, game medals and presentations, aircraft and other models (replica), coins, support or inner structures for gold-silver presentation items.

Pewter manufacturing Wikipedia image



Post 352 –  by Gautam Shah 


Tin was one of the earliest metals to be known, and used in the form of an alloying material with copper to form the bronze. Pure copper is occasionally available as nodules, but its ore is fairly common. Tin is rare, and not found together with copper.


First Bronze was produced by smelting copper and arsenic. This was a very toxic process. The arsenic was soon replaced with tin. Tin bronze was superior to arsenic bronze, as the former alloying process was controllable. Tin-based bronze was non-toxic and produced an alloy that was stronger and easy to cast. Tin was not available at places where copper ore was available, so tin had to be bought from elsewhere. Tin resources and trade routes of ancient times had a great bearing on development of bronze cultures. The earliest tin-alloyed bronzes date to 4500 BC, but pure tin was produced after 600 BC.

Early Ewer Iran

Tin is a silvery malleable metal, a chemical element with symbol Sn from Latin =stannum. It does not easily get oxidized in the air. Tin has many applications other than as an alloying material. Tin, with and without lead, is used for soldering metal joints, plating electrical and other wires, steel plates and components, and for forming pewter metal items.

pewter alloy items

Tin, like indium, is soft enough to be cut without much force. When a bar of tin is bent, the so-called “tin cry” can be heard as a result of sliding tin crystals reforming; this trait is shared by indium, cadmium, and frozen mercury. -Wikipedia

The Latin name stannum originally meant an alloy of silver and lead, and came to mean ‘tin’ in the 4th century -the earlier Latin word for it was plumbum candidum, or “white lead”. Stannum apparently came from an earlier stāgnum (meaning the same substance), the origin of the Romance and Celtic terms for tin. The origin of stannum/stāgnum is unknown; it may be pre-Indo-European. -from Wikipedia

Pewter Tankard

Pewter metal Medal 1863

Pewter German Beer mug

PEWTER is a tin alloy. The earliest piece of pewter was found in Egyptian tombs from 1450 BC. It was extensively used by the Romans for household vessels and ornamental use. The word pewter is possibly a variation of word spelter, a term commonly used for zinc alloys, with similar grey a shiny surface. Pewter is a malleable metal alloy, traditionally 85–99% tin, with the rest formed of copper, antimony, silver, bismuth and sometimes, less common today, the lead. Copper and antimony acts as hardeners, whereas lead is used in decorative (non-food) utilities. Lead containing pewters have a bluish tint. Pewter due to its low melting point (170–230 °C) is easy to cast and work with techniques like chasing, engraving, etc. Pewter was used for making flatware, tableware and church prayer items till early part of 20th C. The early pewters, due to the lead content were hazardous for health. The constituents of pewter were first controlled in the 12th C. by town guilds in France, and later elsewhere. By 16th C. three grades of pewter were common. The first type, the fine metal’, was used for tableware. The second grade known as trifling metal containing up to 4% lead was meant for statuettes and holloware. The third type of pewter, known as ‘lay or ley’ metal, with 15% lead, was used for non-food utilities and for items not used by direct contact. Pewter remained in use till porcelain and glass tableware became common.

Food pack Tinned


Tinning of Brass cooking vessels Traditional manner India


TIN PLATING is metal coating of usually pure tin, on variety of metal surfaces, such as mild steel, copper, brass, etc. Cooking utensils were tin plated to prevent copper oxide and sulphate contamination and weather tarnishing of the surface. Romans were using tinned copper vessels for cooking. A tinned iron sheet or tin-plates were developed in Europe in the 14th -15th C. AD. Food canning industry of 1800s would not have existed without the tin plate packing. Tin-plated sheets can be drawn and worked further without any flaking damage to the coating as tin itself acts as a lubricant. Until the middle of the 20th C. tin-plates were manufactured in by immersing individual sheets in a bath of molten tin, whereas now this is done in a continuous electroplating process. Both bright and matte-finish tin coatings can be produced electroplating.

Babbitt metal bearing

BABBITT METAL is a tin-based alloy. It was originally a casting material for bearings. However, now it is used as a thin surface layer as metal-matrix composite. It is used as a bearing metal for engines and constant-turning tools such as saw-blades.

De-soldering of Tin

SOLDERING is a process of joining metal components by a tin metal or its alloys. Tin is melted as a wire or its powder. Familiar electronic solder contains silver, lead and tin. Metals that are to be soldered should be clean and free of oxide film. A flux of pine rosin, hydrochloric acid or zinc chloride is usually applied, which cleans the surface and seals it from the tarnishing effect of the atmosphere.


TIN ALLOY COATINGS of tin-zinc, tin-nickel, tin-copper, and tin-lead are used. These are used as both protective and decorative finishes. Tin-zinc coatings, are used in automotive industry. Tin-nickel is highly resistant to corrosion and tarnish, finds special use in electrical equipment and scientific instruments. The tin-copper coatings show colour range from bronze to white. Tin-lead coatings are applied to create solder-able surfaces (known as terneplate) on other metals for outdoor corrosion protection and also for gasoline tanks.