When people think of fine jewellery metals, what typically comes to mind? Most tend to think of silver, gold and perhaps even platinum. Pewter is rarely mentioned, however. While innumerable makers and connoisseurs of fine jewellery are well aware of pewter’s advantages, consumers are all too often unclear about why this is an alloy worth considering. Across the globe, pewter is in fact the fourth-most frequently used metal in the making of jewellery.
There are instances in which a jeweller will approximate the look of platinum, silver and similar metals by using polished pewter. They can also darken or add antique patina to pewter in order to achieve a bronze appearance. Pewter is also used as a base metal on which silver or gold plating may be added. Given that pewter can be utilised in all of these different ways, it is understandable why it is not always thought of as a primary metal for jewellery fabrication.
What Makes Pewter So Critical in the Making of Jewellery?
The alloy known as pewter has been made for centuries. There are even examples of pewter to be found in museums that can be dated to the Romans, Celts and even to ancient Egypt. Given that pewter is a soft alloy, it is not useful in the making of weaponry, tools or items such as a sterling silver baby cup. As such, there was never a true Pewter Age comparable to the Iron or Bronze Ages. But, it is likely that the making of pewter began at roughly the same time period that bronze making started.
Though bronze is comprised largely of copper, tin is the primary component of pewter. This means that bronze is always harder, but pewter’s other key qualities render it perfect for jewellery making. Across history, pewter became well-loved for its ability to be used in a range of products. Among these are things such as candlesticks, utensils, jewellery and more.
Think briefly about reasons that made pewter so crucial over the centuries and why it is still popular today:
A chief reason for the use of pewter over time is the fact that it is affordable. Containing mainly tin, with some small amounts of antimony, copper or other hard metals, pewter is an alloy that is much cheaper than silver, gold or platinum. The majority of pewter items, including jewellery, are well-loved for their appearance and artistry more than the sheer value of the metal used in their creation. The affordability factor when compared to the price of other metals makes pewter extremely popular.
The versatile nature of pewter also adds to its popularity. The softer composition of tin makes the resulting pewter alloy soft as well. While other types of metal are combined with tin to make pewter harder, the alloy remains pliable enough for artisans to fabricate stunning and detailed designs. The intricacy and high quality designs that can be achieved with pewter only bolster its desirability.
Pewter is surprisingly durable, despite its softness. While it is necessary for owners of pewter pieces to be somewhat gentle when handling them, it is important to note that these items will not tarnish in the way silver so often does.
Facts About Lead-Free Pewter
It used to be that pewter included lead as a key hardening component. Considering that lead is known to be toxic in some instances, it is best to reduce exposure to antique pieces made from the alloy. Through the NEY brand of metals, Belmont is able to offer safe pewter allows that are free from lead and which are ideal for products likely to touch food or skin. This encompasses tableware, jewellery, utensils and more.
Aside from tin, it is common for pewter alloys to include trace amounts of silver, copper, bismuth and/or antimony. Those making pewter jewellery have the option to choose which hardener is best for their particular application, offering flexibility and customisation difficult to find with other materials.