What is Pewter
Pewter is an alloy of tin (Sn 90 - 98%), antimony (Sb a metallic element 0.5 - 8%) and copper (Cu .25 - 2.5 %). Tin is the primary component. Tin is a soft metal and copper and antimony are added to give it stability.
Physical Appearance of Pewter
Traditionally pewter is a bright shiny metal that resembles silver. And like silver it will tarnish, oxidize and become dull looking.
Quality of Pewter
Some people think that pewter is a cheap substitute for silver. But pewter has qualities that make it a fine metal for decorative and everyday use.
Fine pewter (Lautere) is 96% tin, 4% copper, this formula is found in tableware and utensils
Trifle pewter (Probezinn) is 92% tin, 4% copper and 4% lead. It has a dull look and looks less like silver.
Ley or lay pewter, (Geringen) contains up to 15% lead and is not used for tableware or utensils. Today pewter is made without lead. They now use antimony, bismuth (Bi, a white, crystalline, brittle metallic element used in alloys to form sharp castings for objects sensitive to high temperatures), or a combination of both.
There are two categories of Pewter.
This method is used with a metal or rubber mold to produce handles, badges and figurines.
With this method the metal is poured into a lathe and spun very quickly, the laborer moves the metal in the shape required over a form called a chuck.
In 1503 it was declared that all pewter manufacturers were required to strike their mark on their products. This would enable them to identify the maker at various events. Two makes I know of are RwP and KMD. In 1666 The Guild Hall (keeper of the touchmarks) was burned to the ground in the Great Fire of London and all records and touchmarks were lost. New touchplates were started in 1667.
How to care for your pewter
Today's pewter generally does not tarnish, but in the case of some neglected pewter, clean with a metal polish before you wash it with soapy water. Always polish in straight lines, not circles for best results.
Porringer: dish used by colonial Americans and Europeans. It is a bowl with a handle. Generally used to eat porridge, gruel or other hot, cold dishes. Authentic porringers are rare especially those made in America prior to the American Revolution. You can discern authentic porringers from the touch marks. They are either stamped into the bowl or on its base.