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Pewtwer plate
MFA# 64.1609


Pewter inkwell
MFA# 64.1871

A silvery gray alloy of Tin mixed with another metal, such as Antimony, Copper, or Lead. Pewter was first product in the 3rd century. Common pewter in antiquity contained 60-80% tin and 40-20% lead while modern pewter contains 65-94% tin, 3-30% copper, 5-10% antimony and/or less than 10% lead, Zinc, or Bismuth. The highest grade of pewter contains a large proportion of tin with a small amount of copper. Black metal was the name for a low grade of pewter that contained up to 50% lead mixed with the tin. Pewter was commonly used from the Middle Ages through the mid-19th century for tableware, cups, utensils, and pans. It is still made for specialty items because it is easy to stamp, roll or cast.

Synonyms and Related Terms

black metal; antique silver; beker (Ned.); étain durci (Fr.); Hartzinn (Deut.); peltro (It.); peltre (Port., Esp.); tenn (Sven.)


May contain lead. (Darker pewters contain more lead)

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 595
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • David C. Scott, Metallography and Microstructure of Ancient and Historic Metals, The Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, 1991
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Random House, Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Grammercy Book, New York, 1997
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998
  • Website: Pewter at

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