Most people think of gold and silver when it comes to jewellery. Those are certainly the most popular of the precious metals, but there are others. Some people might add platinum to the aforementioned list, but it’s rare that people would think of pewter, even though it is actually the 4th most used metal in jewellery making. Silver and pewter gifts are more common than you might think.
Jewellers polish pewter to give it an appearance similar to that of silver or platinum. Sometimes they darken the surface to make it look more like bronze. Pewter also makes a good base for gold or silver plating. It is strong and durable, and holds other metals well.
What Makes Pewter So Popular For Making Jewellery?
Pewter is a metal alloy that has been used throughout history. The Celts, Romans and Ancient Egyptians all made use of it. The alloy is too soft to use for tools or weapons, so there is no ‘Pewter Age’ in the history books. It is thought that people learned how to make the alloy at the same time, roughly, as they learned how to make bronze. Pewter is strong enough for jewellery since it can be worked and cast, and won’t get damaged through day to day use.
Bronze is primarily made up of copper, while pewter contains more tin. Bronze is harder than pewter, but pewter can be fashioned into ornate pieces such as candlesticks, tableware, utensils, etc. The ease with which it can be worked means that it remains popular even today, and is a major part of why it was so important throughout history. Let’s look at what has made pewter so popular:
Affordable: Pewter contains primarily tin, with some copper and harder metals – often antimony, for example. This means it costs less than gold, silver, and platinum. Pewter products aren’t typically valued for the cost of the metal, but more for the quality of the workmanship that went into making them.
Versatile: Tin is soft, and while Pewter is mixed with other metals to harden it, the alloy is still quite pliable so a skilled artist will be able to make complex designs with it. Pewter pieces are artistic and striking.
Durable: Pewter does not tarnish like silver. It is soft enough that it needs to be taken care of, but it’s not as delicate as very high-quality gold. It is not easily damaged when used on table settings or for decorative brooches, for example.
If you have any antique pieces, then they may contain lead as a hardener. Lead is no longer used in jewellery making since it has been found to be toxic. It is a good idea to try to limit your exposure to vintage or antique pewter. Even handling things that contain lead can be dangerous. The NEY Metals brand from Belmont supplies lead-free pewter allows that are safe for use in items that may come into contact with your food or skin. You can find tableware, utensils and jewellery containing tin, copper, antimony, bismuth and silver. The type of pewter alloy selected can make a difference to the alloy’s appearance and hardness and how it responds to different types of moulding and casting techniques, so jewellers often choose different alloys for different kinds of crafting application.