What Is Lead-Free Pewter? A Short Explanation

What is lead-free pewter?

Pewter is an environmentally friendly metal which, by definition, is an alloy of various metals. The pewter we use is specially made for us to our specification and is of the highest quality comprising 95% tin, 0.5% copper and 4.5% antimony. It is certified lead and nickel-free. This makes our metal completely non-toxic, food-friendly and with regards to our jewellery there is no need to worry about problems with allergies or sensitive skin.

Our pewter is more expensive than others, but it shows in the quality of the end result. Lesser quality pewter can be prone to shrinkage when cast and can show a yellow tint.

Pewter is the fourth most expensive metal in common use after platinum, gold and silver.

Glover and Smith are members of The Association of British Pewter Craftsmen and most of our designs carry the quality marks of the Association. Ed Glover is also a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers.

Our designs make ideal Tenth Wedding Anniversary gifts. (The 10th Wedding Anniversary is the Tin Anniversary).

Tin is a plentiful, non-toxic resource and tin mining has little or no impact on the environment. This eco-friendly metal does not need polishing like silver and it does not go grey like old pewter (this was due to its lead content).

Lead-free pewter is the favourite metal of the World Wildlife Fund. Glover and Smith have designed and made products for Prince Charles' Highgrove Estate, The National Trust, The National Gallery, The British Museum, The National Trust of Scotland, The National Galleries and Museums of Scotland and Wales. We have also designed work for Salisbury, Ely, Canterbury and Exeter Cathedrals and also Bath Abbey.

So What is Pewter?

Pewter has been used in the home for around 3,000 years. It is a malleable metal alloy, traditionally composed of 85–99% tin, mixed with copper, antimony, bismuth, and sometimes lead, although the use of lead is less common today.

Copper and other metals are added to the tin to act as hardeners, while lead is more common in the lower grades of pewter (these have a bluish tint).

Pewter has a low melting point, around 247–290 °C (477–554 °F), depending on the exact mixture of metals. (Our pewter is “liquidus” at 247 °C, but becomes workable at 290 °C).

What is English Pewter?

The term “pewter” covers a range of tin-based alloys; however the term “English Pewter” represents a strictly-controlled and specific metal alloy, specified by BSEN611-1 and British Standard 5140. The metal we use strictly complies to these specifications. Consisting mainly of tin, with the balance made up of copper and other metals. English pewter is guaranteed free of lead and nickel.

To find out more about our Pewter and Sterling silver jewellery, or if you want guidance on chain lengths, click here.

The Worshipful Company of Pewterers

Livery companies evolved from London's old medieval guilds, they became corporations under Royal Charter responsible for training in their respective trades. The Worshipful Company of Pewterers is one of the older Livery Companies in the City of London, ranking number sixteen in the order of civic precedence among over a hundred other companies. Ed Glover has been a Freeman of The Company since 2013.

In the 15th Century, King Edward IV granted the first charter (1474). This gave the Company the right to be self-governing, to hold property and goods in perpetuity and to govern the trade throughout the whole kingdom.

The original company had three grades of purity for pewter, the first type, known as "fine metal", was used for tableware. The second type, known as "trifling metal" or "trifle", was used for hollow-ware. The last type, known as "lay" or "ley" metal, contained the most Lead and was used for items that were not in contact with food or drink. These three alloys were used, with little variation, until the 20th century.

Older pewters with higher lead content are heavier, tarnish faster and oxidation gives them a darker silver-grey colour. Lead was removed from the composition in 1974, by BS5140, reinforced by the European directive BSEN611 in 1994.

How to clean pewter

With a minimum of care your pewter ware will retain its shiny patina. Simply wipe with soapy water. There is no need to use abrasive cleaners or polishes; however we do not recommend dishwasher cleaning. In bathrooms our light pulls will never rust. 

Lead-free pewter can oxidize over time. You can try just washing with warm soapy water. Alternatively, you can try the following recipe:
1. Make a paste with 1 tsp salt, 1 cup white vinegar and 1/2 cup flour
2. Apply to the pewter for up to an hour
3. Rinse and dry with a soft cloth

If you want to know even more about modern eco-friendly pewter have a look here www.pewterers.org.uk