The allure of old pewter lies in its unusual shapes and mellow tints, but most importantly in its scarcity. At the time of its creation, vintage pewter was typically of low value, and our forefathers may have had little idea, as they drank their ale from pewter tankards or ate their meals from pewter plates, of the prominence or prices that these household goods would one day command. Although the metal has little intrinsic value as an alloy of lead and tin with a soupcon of antimony, bismuth, or copper, it has grown in popularity due to historical interest.
Vintage pewter is known to date back over thousand years to ancient China and there are actual examples dating back over eleven hundred years of Japanese pewter held in museums in both Britain and the USA. There have also been claims that the Hebrews produced pewter and that it was also used in some form in ancient Rome.
You can find vintage pewter for sale on various online marketplaces like Etsy, eBay, Bidsquare.com, and Ruby Lane, among others. You can also check out antique shops or flea markets in your local area. When purchasing vintage pewter, it is critical to inspect the piece for any damage, such as dents or scratches, and to confirm its authenticity, as some pewter items are reproductions.
Pewter from Northern Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries is more common. Fine ornate and carefully crafted examples can be found in the work of the Frenchman Briot, and slightly later by the Swiss Enderlain, dating from around 1550. The trade developed in Scotland around Edinburgh and Glasgow beginning in the sixteenth century, and during the seventeenth century Dutch and German pewter came to the fore.
Although English pewter can be traced back to the tenth century, few examples before the seventeenth century survive, most likely because much was destroyed during the Reformation. Pewter was originally used exclusively by the nobility or for ecclesiastical purposes until the fourteenth century. Pewter probably reached its apex in domestic use in the seventeenth century, having supplanted wooden tableware beginning in the sixteenth century.
From around 1780 onwards, pewter became primarily the preserve of the upper classes, where it ruled for a long time, though it also lingered for a time in taverns and inns and in London chop houses.
Vintage pewter from England is widely regarded as the superior form in the world of vintage pewter. This could be due to the fact that English pewter was more sturdy and dignified than its foreign counterparts. Much of this is likely due to the role of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers, a London guild that worked hard to ensure that pewter marks were used and recorded.
Unfortunately, the company’s records were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, making it extremely difficult to link pieces that still exist today to their original touch (manufacturers). Good examples of early English pewter, on the other hand, can be identified by the Worshipful Company’s quality mark of a rose with a crown..
Tips for caring and cleaning pewter:
- Use a mild dishwashing detergent to clean pewter in warm, soapy water.
- To avoid water spots, dry pewter immediately after washing with a soft cloth.
- Extreme temperatures or abrupt temperature changes should be avoided as they can cause warping or cracking.
- Use a commercial pewter polish or a paste made of equal parts flour, salt, and vinegar to remove tarnish. Apply the polish or paste with a soft cloth, then thoroughly rinse and dry the pewter.
- Abrasive cleaners or scrubbers should not be used because they can scratch the surface of the pewter.
- To avoid scratches and dents, keep pewter in a dry, cool place and avoid stacking or crowding items.