Pewter is a malleable alloy comprising mainly tin and was in common use in Roman times. The composition of pewter can vary depending on its intended use.
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Typical composition of pewter tends to be in the range of 74 to 89 per cent tin, 0 to 20 per cent lead, 0 to 7.6 per cent antimony, 0 to 3.5 per cent copper with trace levels of zinc. Arsenic and iron may also be present as impurities.
Traditional pewters came in a range of alloys. First grade -- "fine" -- pewter was tin with 1 per cent copper, used for flatware. Second grade -- "trifle" -- pewter was fine grade mixed with 4 per cent lead, for items like cups and bowls. "Lay" metal (third grade), for non-food and drink uses, was tin with 15 per cent lead.
International standards define pewter as having a composition of 90 to 98 per cent tin, 1 to 8 per cent antimony and 0.25 to 3 per cent copper, with limits specified for various impurities (lead, arsenic, iron and zinc).
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