About Pewter


Pewter is a metal alloy, or combination of metals, consisting of tin, copper, and other metals. Copper acts as the hardener in pewter. Lead will give pewter a bluish tint. Lead is used much less often in pewter these days since the discovery of its toxic effects on people.

However lead is still used in some grades of pewter. The highest grade of pewter, called fine, contains no lead and is 96-99 percent copper and 1-4 percent copper. Trifle, the mid-grade, consists of 92 percent tin, 1-6 percent copper, and up to 4 percent lead. Trifle is still safe for use as eating and drinking utensils. The lowest grade of pewter is called lay or ley and should not be used for eating or drinking as it contains up to 15 percent lead.

Pewter has a fairly low melting point of around 437-464 degree Fahrenheit (240-260 degrees Celsius) depending on the mixture of metals. It is possible to heat pewter enough in the flame of a candle to bend it. Because of the lesser expense and the low melting point, pewter is great for use in collectible figurines.

Pewter is shiny and looks very much like silver, but is far less expensive. It will tarnish much like silver as well. Over time pewter will become more of a dull gray. Because pewter is such a soft metal, too much polishing can diminish the detail.

Historically pewter has been seen as far back as 5000 B.C. Pewter is most likely the cause for the belief that tomatoes were poisonous. Highly acidic foods, such as tomatoes, caused the lead to dissolve into the food. This leaching was then consumed and people were poisoned by the lead, not the tomato. We have since learned that tomatoes are safe and so is lead-free pewter.

While lead is still used in some pewter today, it is considered safe to handle. Lead poisoning occurs when lead is ingested. So unless you chew on your dragons, any of the pewter figurines sold here are safe to handle.

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