What Two Metals Make Pewter?By James Holloway, eHow Contributor
Pewter was first developed during the Bronze Age, and has been used ever since to make objects such as dishes, jugs, cups and decorative objects. Pewter is an alloy of tin, which consists of 85-99 percent tin, but it is actually mixed with several other metals, including copper, lead, antimony, and bismuth, not just one metal. The percentages of other metals mixed with tin vary depending on the grade of pewter desired.
- In the Middle Ages, quality control of manufactured goods was carried out by craft guilds or companies. One such group was the Worshipful Company of Pewterers, responsible for controlling the manufacture of pewter. This regulatory body was the first to establish several grades of pewter, each defined by its metal content. The proportions of these metals in the alloy determine the grade of the pewter.
Grades of Pewter
- Grades of pewter established in the Middle Ages continued to be used until the 19th century. The highest grade of pewter is Fine Metal, which has a copper content of around 1 percent. The second type of pewter, Trifling Ware, consists of tin with around 4 percent lead. This gives it a darker gray color and makes it oxidize more quickly. The third grade of pewter, Ley Metal, contains a very high percentage of lead, around 15 percent. This type of pewter was only used for items that would not come into contact with food or drink since lead is detrimental to health.
- Because of health concerns relating to the quantity of lead in some types of pewter, modern pewter does not contain any. A typical modern pewter alloy contains about 94 percent tin, 1 percent copper, and 5 percent antimony. The exact proportion of these metals varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and on the intended use of the object being created. Increasing the amount of tin and decreasing the amount of antimony, for instance, produces a softer alloy.
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