The ancestry of pewter extends back before the Christian Era. Romans used it quite extensively for table ware.
Pewter is an alloy of at least 90 percent tin and 10 percent lead and copper, a few manufacturers added antimony for strength.
American use. Due to the fact most Americans, similar to today, were medium to low income folks, pewter was also employed widely as table service.
By the 1800s pottery wares replaced most pewter articles.
By the 1900s folks possessed an extra amount of income. Quite a few desired to retain articles of their and the nations history and antiques and reproductions were added to households.
Collectors consider pewter with 90 percent tin the highest quality, a lower tin content pewter was also produced, named ‘trifle,’ this only had 60 percent tin.
Today’s pewter is mostly tin, the lead is considered harmful and was therefore eliminated.
Polishing pewter. Unlike the care required in polishing silver, several polishing compounds can be employed, including any silver, brass or copper polishes. The process is also eliminatory – simply rub the compound then buff it with a soft cloth.
To shine it like silver does pewter an injustice. The real color of pewter is a dull gray-blue.
If the pewter has blackened with age, a thorough scouring with a powder and kerosene mixture often cleans the surface.
If difficult try a steel wool pad and kerosene. After washing, rinse thoroughly and finish with a good silver polish.
Temperature is important for pewter storage. Too low temperatures, below 60 degrees, can cause pewter to to deteriorate slowly. High temperatures will disfigure the surface due to its soft nature. Store pewter in finished wooden containers or drawers, unfinished wood releases acids harmful to pewter.
Flatware should be set flat or warping can occur.
Kitchen pewter. Pewter is very heavy compared to other kitchen utensils, a platter usually was 5 or 6 pounds. A full set of pewter, including dishes, plates, platters, etc., was called a “garnish of pewter.” Many ladies were proud of these wares. A set given for wedding gifts was very much prized.
Unlike the displays of those that prefer the gray-blue hue for pewter, our ancestors polished it to a silver shine. Old timers used to gather horse tail rush, crush it, and use it to scour their pewter with water. This was called “scouring-rush.”
Pewter was also used in the manufacturing of funnels, dram cups and steins. These are not commonly considered part of a service.
Readily used. Even though pewter was considered a poor man’s silver, well-to-do homes proudly displayed and used pewter for service ware readily.
Not only was pewter used in most domestic utensils, this metal was used to make lamps that burned whale oil and other non-petroleum oils.
Drinking mug lids are often pewter, including the steins made in Germany.
A contributing factor to the lack of old colonial pewter articles is due to the Revolutionary War wherein pewter was melted and cast into shot.