Pewter Care Instructions
How Pewter is Made
Pewter is a metal alloy, meaning that it is a substance formed combining two or more metals. The finest pewter was traditionally made by combining tin, copper, and antimony, all metals known to the ancient Egyptians. By itself, tin is a pretty soft metal; antimony and copper are added to make it harder. Even with the added metals, it is a relatively soft metal with a low melting point (about 450° F or 230° C). Lower quality pewter also traditionally contained lead as a filler to make it heavier, because lead is very inexpensive. The dangers of lead are now widely recognized. Since the 1960’s, pewter food vessels and utensils made in the United States have generally not contained lead. The Consumer Product Safety Acts of 1998 and 2008 declared that any product containing lead that a child might use must be treated as a banned hazardous substance, which assures that lead will never again be used in pewter in the U.S.
At Shaker Workshops, we sell only American-made pewter produced by reputable craftspeople. Our pewter products are totally lead-free, which means that they are both child-safe and food-safe.
To work the pewter, the craftsperson can either heat an ingot to its melting point and cast the molten metal in a mold or mount a thick disk on a spinning lathe and shape it over a mold with special tools. Cast pewter products tend to be heavy with fine detailing; spun pewter products tend to be light with simple designs. Nearly all the pewter products in the Shaker Workshops catalog are produced by the casting technique.
Routine Care for Pewter
The pewter items that you purchase from Shaker Workshops are meant to be used! Our measuring spoons and cups are accurate for any liquids and solids. As discussed above, pewter has a low melting point; it must NOT be used over any heat source (open flame, hot plate, stove top, oven, barbecue, etc.). Also, we do not recommend pewter utensils for two kitchen tasks—breaking up hardened brown sugar and scooping out frozen ice cream. To remove wax from pewter candle holders, use very hot water from the kitchen sink; do not use sharp implements.
Pewter should be hand washed after use with hot soapy water and rinsed thoroughly with hot water. Dry with a soft cloth to prevent water spots. Pewter is indeed “dishwasher-safe”, but some cleaning agents will discolor pewter and some very high-temperature dishwashers will warp pewter.
Restoring the Original Finish on Pewter
Pewter does not tarnish rapidly as silver does, with a thin layer of oxidation caused by chemicals in the air. However, with use and time, pewter will darken gradually in color, as cherry wood darkens, for example. To restore the original finish, purchase a polish designed specifically for pewter. After cleaning, wash in hot, soapy water and rinse with hot water. Do not use either brass or silver polish on pewter; you will not be satisfied with the results.
There are many pewter look-a-likes on the market that are actually aluminum-based alloys. Check the label and care for them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
14 South Pleasant Street
Ashburnham, MA 01430-1649