How To Care For and Clean Your Pewter
Pewter is an alloy consisting of mostly tin and
it is the fourth most precious metal. It also has very small amounts
of antimony and copper which is added mainly for strength and/or
color. The percentage of tin can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer,
but most often you will find at the least 91% tin and the rest
in antimony and copper.
European pewter has a minimum tin content of 92%
although many of these manufacturers raise this to 95% and some
even to 97% tin. The higher the tin content, the more silver the
Pewter dates back to the Roman days and was only
something the rich and wealthy could afford.
Despite contrary beliefs today's pewter is perfectly
safe to eat and drink from. Modern pewter contains no lead
as it once did. How can you tell if your pewter items have lead
in them? This is a question that gets asked quite often. Read
on to find out...
The result of lead in pewter is a grayish-black
patina on the surface of the item. The amount of darkening and
type of oxidation can vary depending on the type of environment
the items are left in.
Most often, people will leave this patina on because
it creates an antique look that many manufacturers try to simulate
today. If you should try to remove it, the layers underneath are
then exposed which will in time once again corrode and the patina
comes back. In all actuality, the patina layer that forms on lead
based pewter acts as a protective layer and should really not
Lead free pewter can also oxidize over time, but
it takes much longer and the color is usually more grayish compared
to the lead based pewter which is a darker gray or black in color.
General Pewter Care Tips
Pewter Cleaning Tips
- Pewter can be pitted or stained from certain foods such
as citrus juice, types of salad dressings etc., so please
remember to wash your items immediately after use.
- Do not place in the oven on a hot plate or near hot flames
because pewter melts easier than other types of metals. Pewter
melts at only 450 degrees.
- Always hand wash rather than placing in a dishwasher.
Unlike silver, pewter doesn't tarnish, so you will
not need to clean it all that often.
There are generally three different types of finishes
you will find in pewter items and each has a preferred method
This type of finish is very shiny and smooth and only really needs
to be cleaned a couple of times a year. The recommend method of
cleaning this type of pewter is with a very soft cloth and some
special polish. You
can try our pewter cleaning kit developed by us,
or you can try making your own paste of vinegar, salt and flour.
Rub it in circular motions with a soft cloth gently to shine up
For taking out fine scratches, our pewter cleaning kit also does the trick. It has a very small amount of very fine
grit in the polish which must be applied with care. Just apply
a little bit to the affected area and rub with a soft cloth in
circular motions. You will notice that your cloth will turn black.
This is normal, as it is actually taking off a very fine layer
of pewter and dirt to reveal the new shiny layer underneath. Just keep
turning the cloth so you are always using a clean part and your
pewter will once again shine. If you should notice that the now
cleaned area is shinier than the rest of the area, you may have
to do the surrounding area to get an even effect.
Another type of polish that works well is Rottenstone.
You can find this at some hardware stores or lumberyards.
This type of pewter has a little bit more of a rougher appearance.
It is not shiny, but has almost a grain type of finish. You can
use warm water and a mild soap to clean this type of pewter.
Every couple of years you may want to buff out or
brush this kind of pewter using very fine steel wool. You can
find this in any local hardware store. Always remember to rub
in the direction of the grain and do not press very hard. It will
not take much to return it back to it's original appearance.
Oxidized pewter usually has a darker finish and has an antique
look to it. Just washing with warm water and a mild soap is all
you really need to do with this type of pewter.
You should also note that pewter from earlier periods
can oxidize easily because of the higher lead content.
our pewter cleaning kit!
Over the many years we've been working with pewter, we have tried several different kinds of products on our pewter - many of which left us disappointed. We finally came up with our own pewter cleaner that takes care of simple polishing to removing stubborn scratches. Our kit comes complete with everything you need to keep your
pewter clean and valuable. Click
here for details on this product!
Pewter Identification Marks
Starting centuries ago, pewter pieces were branded
or etched into the finished products to show that it was a quality
product. The mark usually consisted of the mark of the city combined
with the maker's mark. As time went on, the pewter makers started
to use their own symbols and marks. It was at this point the guilds
stepped in and brought forth rules and regulations for the stamps.
Alloy regulations were put forth because the amount of tin in
the product made a difference in the quality. Certain quality
marks were put into effect for good, better and best.
Two of these known high quality marks are the crown
with the rose and the ore angel Michael holding a sword in one
hand and a balance in the other which dates back to the 18th century.
Pewter manufacturers today still use these old marks
along with their company's marks. The angel mark has never been
controlled or regulated so you will find many pewter manufacturers
today that continue to use this traditional stamp regardless of
whether or not their product is really a "high quality"
product. Some of these products that bear the angel mark may only
have a thin plating of pewter or very low tin content and are
usually referred to as decorative or ornamental type pewter.
To combat this, in 1973, the pewter guild came out
with their hand-made seal as a representation of high quality
pewter. Some manufacturers today do not even use a quality stamp
other than their own company logo or seal such as SKS Zinn, a
leading high quality pewter manufacturer in Germany.
So, although policies and rules have been tried
to be put forth, they are not always followed when it comes to
identifying the quality of the pewter. The best advice we can
give you is to ask what the pewter content is and make sure you
are buying from a reputable company. The FDA requires that the
tin content be at least 92% in order to be qualified as "food
safe" and you will find some companies go even beyond this
point with up to 97% pewter. Even though the pewter content may
be where it should be, who makes the products is also extremely
important as we all know that quality can vary between different