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Pewter Fact File

Pewter jewellery has an ancient Celtic tradition going back more than 4,200 years to the time of the Bronze Age. Modern Pewter (European Standard EN611) is a silver-grey alloy composed of 92% tin with copper and antimony to harden it - contrary to popular belief it does not contain lead. The Romans knew and used pewter to a considerable extent and had developed a great deal of expertise in working it. As well as utensils, the Romans used pewter for coins and seals of office.
Pewter Guilds were formed in various European countries as early as the 1300’s. It was used in well-to-do households of the Middle Ages as a replacement for wooden tableware and was unrivalled until nearly 1800.

Although not considered a precious metal in the same way as platinum, gold and silver, pewter is a valuable metal in its own right and touch marks are often struck on fine quality pewter. The marks usually provide some of the same information as a hallmark: the composition of the metal, the maker’s mark and an indication of quality such as the Sheffield Cross Arrows, a mayoral endorsement taken from the Sheffield coat of arms. See below.

Pewter ingots are fused in a crucible and the metal is ladled into moulds prepared from artists' original sculptures. After cooling and finishing, pieces are hand polished by skilled craftsmen, before jewellery clips and other findings are spot-welded into position. Alternatively, because pewter is malleable, it can be hammered into shape from an ingot.

Pewter cannot flake or tarnish, and can take a high polish. However, with age, pewter takes on an attractive patina that can be unintentionally removed with abrasive cleaners - so take care.

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