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What is Pewter?

In Colonial America craftsmen manufactured the essential products needed to sustain early American life. Pewter craftsmen produced dinnerware, vessels for drinking and lighting to meet Photo of casting pewterthe needs of the colonists. Today, handcrafted pewter products remind us of these early designs as an art form and objects now treasured by collectors.

Pewter is not a spectacular or rare metal, but no other material compares to the simple, soft, subdued texture and color of pewter. It blends well with richly carved Renaissance oak in a mansion, or with simple pieces found in a country farmhouse or cottage.

What is pewter?
Pewter alloy is made of tin, bismuth, antimony, and sometimes copper or silver — depending on the alloy your artisan has selected for a specific item. Colonial pewter often contained lead to give it strength. Lead causes old pewter to turn it's characteristic dark gray color. Today‚Äôs lead free pewter softens to a very light gray patina.

Here at Village Pewter, LLC, we use a lead free pewter alloy of tin, antimony and copper that meets the requirements of the newly enacted Consumer Protection Safety Improvement Act of 2008. It is completely food safe. It is always wise to ask your pewtersmith what alloy was used to make your pewter product.

How is pewter made?
In Colonial America, artisans made pewter articles in three ways; by melting pewter alloy and casting it in molds, by hammering a flat piece of metal into a shape, and by turning on a lathe. A pewtersmith might have also combined the methods, to suit the type of piece or the result desired.

The pewter artisan made his own molds and was, therefore, considered an artist rather than a mechanic giving form to designs of others. The pewtersmith's mold repeats the perfection or shortcomings of the original form.

Today, artisans fashion pewter in much the same manner as their predecessors. They craft each piece individually from original molds designed by the artisan. Modern casting molds are often made from silicone rubber rather than bronze. Hardwoods, such as cherry and maple, are used to make the forms that are used to spin flat disks of pewter into shapes on the lathe.

Early pewtersmiths identified their work with a signature that was known as a Touchmark. Touchmarks identified the artisan, the quality of his work, and location of his shop. Today's artisan also identifies his work with his signature Touchmark.

Use and Care of Pewter
To keep a beautiful bright, shiny, mirror-like finish, the American Pewter Guild recommends a multi-metal polish used to clean brass, chrome, and silver. You can find it in home-improvement, hardware, and grocery stores.

If your pewter has a satin finish, with a softer, more mellow patina, wash it in warm soapy water, rinse, and dry with a clean soft 100% cotton cloth to remove dust or finger prints. Do not use any abrasive on an antique pewter finish. It could affect the patina and decrease the pewter's value.

Pewter does not withstand high temperatures. Do not use in a hot oven. High dishwasher temperatures and harsh detergent may damage pewter. Be careful when handling. Pewter may be damaged if dropped.

 

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