What is Pewter?

Pewter is an alloy metal. An alloy is made by combining metallic elements, this is typically done to create a product with greater strength or resistance to corrosion. In early Roman times pewter was made of 70% tin and 30% lead. The acids found in things like tomatoes and wine would cause the lead to leach from pewter tableware. This was especially true with the wine that was boiled to a concentrate in a pot made of lead. Gout was prevalent among the wealthy in Roman times – due to high exposure to lead.

Pewter regulations were passed as early as 1348 in London. The Royal Mintery of Pewterers’ was created in 1473 to monitor and control the quality of Pewter created in the land.  They would check pewterer’s stock through its weight. An item containing lead would register heavier than leadfree pewter.   

During Colonial times due to the scarcity of tin – many items contained lead. Lead was used in musket balls, paint, alloys and glazes. The first legislation banning lead in the colonies came in the early 1700s while Massachusetts was still a colony of England. The ban was issued after colonists became ill from the consumption of rum that had been shipped from Massachusetts. The kegs used to ship the rum contained lead parts.

In 1786 Benjamin Franklin questioned the toxic effects of lead the “mischievous metal” in a letter. He questioned why the known effects of lead had not been made public knowledge. It took another 40+ years before the medical community began to document treatment of exposure to lead (early 1830s). Tanquerel of France is credited with documenting the clinical aspects of lead poisoning in 1839.

The alloy that Sheldon Pewter uses – Britannia Pewter – contains tin, copper and white metal called antimony which acts as a preservative. All of our items are hand-cast and finished.