Pewter has a long history of use as a material for dinnerware and decorative items. Lead was a common ingredient of pewter in Colonial times, giving the pewter of that time its characteristic dark grey colour. To keep it safe for food, modern-day pewter is made without lead.
Pewter is an alloy, or blend, of tin with other metals, including bismuth, antimony and copper. The exact mixture varies, but the best pewter contains at least 92 per cent tin, giving the metal a silvery colour, according to German Haus Gifts.
Archeological evidence indicates that pewter was developed during the Bronze Age. Although at first only the wealthy could afford pewter, by the Middle Ages pewter tankards and utensils were commonly used by ordinary citizens.
Pewter pieces are created by melting the alloy and pouring it into a mould, or by turning a flat piece of metal on a lathe. A pewtersmith traditionally leaves a signature or sign on the piece, called a touchmark, says supplier Village Pewter.
The soft patina of pewter lends beauty to jewellery, dinnerware and housewares. It is more affordable than silver.
Acidic foods or liquids can cause pitting in pewter, so it should be washed and dried by hand after each use. Because it melts at between 232 and 248 degrees C, pewter should not be exposed to high heat.