De-mystifying pewter

Hello Orchid Community,

I am new joining your site, although I have checked you out for
awhile. I would love to introduce you to the fabulous world of
Pewter. I am the author of “Pewter Studio”, which I think you would
all love by the way. I am on a mission to de-mystify the metal of
Pewter- it is the “other white metal”. It is much cheaper than silver
running about $1.81 cents an ounce verses Silver’s $20 a ounce at the
moment. It is quicker to work with than silver,because it work
softens, instead of work hardens, and it does not tarnish. This is
not your grandma’s pewter anymore- it is lead free, totally food
safe, doesn’t take fingerprints, doesn’t tarnish, is non corrosive
and looks great!

So the question I have for all of you- why haven’t you tried it
yet??? Ask me whatever questions you have, because I want you all to
try it at least once. I work in both silver and pewter and think of
it as left brain and right brain, you need to be able to work faster
on somethings and slow down on others. Don’t be afraid of it, it is

Lisa Slovis Mandel


I am so happy to see you here. Welcome. Lisa is an exquisite
metalsmith and instructor. Her book is wonderful, as are her pieces
several of which we have seen. You will enjoy her participation here
on Orchid.



Is there a test for pewter to determine if it has a lead content.


Personally, I haven’t tried pewter because I feel like it would
devalue my brand. I work in sterling and gold with precious and
semi-precious stones. I’ve done this for about 8 years now and I
think it would throw my customers through a loop. I wholesale.

There are still many people that have allergies to pewter (myself
included, lead or no lead) as well as many stores that will not
carry non-precious metals, pewter and gold-fill included.


So the question I have for all of you- why haven't you tried it

I got into pewter after experimentation with tin.

“Cornwall Man” 1995 "Cornwall Man" | In honour of the tin mines in Cornwall… | Flickr

I liked tin as a pure metal, and it led me to appreciate the casting
qualities of pewter, whether cast in a hand-carved wooden mold, sand
or cuttlefish bone. And for a while when I taught beginners casting
I’d get students to cast the same (cuttlebone) mold first in pure
tin, then in Brittania pewter, then sterling.

Casting tin and pewter in free-form wooden molds led me to doing the
same using stg, which makes a delicious and smooth shape inside the

Tin Lizzies and Tree Trunk Rings rings - tt | Flickr

Here’s my question to you Lisa. What’s the pickle for tin-based
alloys? What can I dip tin and Brittania Pewter into to clean the
grey oxides off?


Brian Adam and Ruth Baird
New Zealand

Hi All,

Pewter hasn’t contained lead in…a couple of hundred years. Pretty
much anything after 1800 or so is actually tin & antimony. Weirdly,
in doing a little bit of research, even the old stuff was tin/
antimony/lead, with the higher value pieces having less and less
lead in them. There were apparently a variety of different alloys in

As far as devalue your brand? Maybe, depends on how you pitch it. One
reason for playing with it is simply that you can play. Given my
druthers, I’m a silversmith. I like to do large formed vessels. I
love silver, but nobody’s ever accused silver of being particularly
tolerant of a lack of planning. Not the metal to just play around
with. I also like to raise niobium. If you think silver’s fussy and
unforgiving, try niobium. (Nb’s great stuff, don’t get me wrong, it
just takes a fair bit of plotting and scheming to get it to go where
I want, in the right hardness state, and with the right polish. I
spend at least as much time planning everything out ahead of time as
I do actually forming it.)

Pewter, on the other hand, is incredibly forgiving. I use it to
sketch in 3D. Some of my three legged goblet designs are very
difficult to sketch out on paper. It’s actually quicker to knock out
a rough maquette in pewter, just to see what the thing looks like.

Should pewter compete with a silver or gold jewelry line? Probably
not. On the other hand, it’s incredibly liberating to just be able
to play with it. So play, and then bring some of those designs back
into the ‘precious’ line. Once you’ve played with it for a little
bit, you’ll discover all sorts of interesting designs that you
discarded because they weren’t a ‘sure thing’ worth working up in
precious metal. Not a problem with pewter, it’s something like 5% of
the price, so it frees you to explore more ideas, and be more


Hello Lisa:

Nice to see you in this site. Please i would want your opinion about
the effects of pewter because the high content of tin (more than
90%) on it. I heard,breathing fumes of molten metal can affect the
lungs and others effects because organic and inorganic compounds.

Thank you

HI George,

There is a test you can get from the hardware store that is for
testing things in the house for lead to protect kids. That should
work for whatever you are testing too. In the United States it was in
the 1940’s where they started to take lead out of the sheet pewter
being produced.

Lisa Slovis Mandel

HI Amery,

I appreciate your sentiments. Firstly, I have never heard of anyone
having pewter allergies. I have heard of having an allergic reaction
to the flux (myself included), but I have found an organic based
flux that relieves that issue. There are most definitely galleries or
places that will not sell pewter jewelry- or any costume jewelry for
that matter. Yet there are artists who use pewter for jewelry on the
costume jewelry side who do very well. Many who gold plate them also
to create the inexpensive alternative to gold.

Since your line is sterling, gold and precious stones, you may not
want to mix pewter in, but in the case where you would want to do a
completely different line that would be a lower end line, this would
be perfect.

Lisa Slovis Mandel

It’s a moot point for me to “play” in pewter as I’m a wax carver.

Amery Carriere


Speaking of sheet pewter, have you had any experience with embossing
sheet pewter or using conforming dies. I am casting pewter
medallions and was reading Susan Kingsley’s book on Hydraulic die
forming in which she said that pewter gives good detail with a
pressed die.


... because the high content of tin (more than 90%) on it. I
heard,breathing fumes of molten metal can affect the lungs and
others effects because organic and inorganic compounds. 

Tin is not a concern. It’s a very inert element. The other components
in Britannia Pewter are antimony 6% and copper 2%. Probably the
copper would be the one most likely to be slightly toxic as fumes.
But there’s a lot less copper than in sterling silver, and you
generally don’t need to heat pewter up to the same temps as sterling.

New Zealand

Hi Alfredo,

I have found a lot less of a problem breathing fumes while working
pewter than the higher melting metals. I also found a fabulous flux
by H & N Electronics (760) 373-8033. The pewter flux (Supersafe,
Superior No 30) says " Organic, water soluble: contains no rozin,
zinc, or ammonium chlorides, or other strong acids. When used
properly, its residues are chemically non-corrosive,
non-hygroscopic, and electrically non-conductive." I have had
allergic reactions to other fluxes, and trouble breathing the fumes,
but not with this one. They make a flux for silver soldering too (I
think it is No 6).

Ventilation is always good if you can anyway, but it is much less of
a problem with the pewter.

Lisa Slovis Mandel

There are still many people that have allergies to pewter (myself
included, lead or no lead) 

Modern pewter (and that’s for some time now) doesn’t have lead, so
anyone working in pewter today will be working with lead free metal.

Allergies to pewter? That’s a new one. Tin (pewter is almost pure
tin, with traces of copper and a bit of antimony) is not commonly
associated with allergies, and is actually considered “food safe”.
Those fancy copper saute pans one sees in pricey kitchen stores have
their interior “tinned”, because copper DOES cause problems for some
people, as well as perhaps affecting tastes. Tin doesn’t. It’s long
been used, just like silver, for food containing vessels. Again, if
there were a long history of allergies to tin, I’d think it would be
more widely known… But I’m not a doctor. So perhaps… And I
suppose that there are probably people out there who are allergic to
almost anything one could name.

I’m wondering, though, whether your own sensativities are actually
to pewter, instead of to some of the other, cheaper, widely used
“white metal” alloys. Many of these contain cadmium, zinc, bismuth,
and a raft of other things, so allergies to these metals common in
costume jewelry (which often is gold plated, and there’s usually a
layer of nickel plating in that as well) are much more likely. So are
you sure you’re allergic to pewter itself? You’d be the first I’ve
ever heard of it…

Peter Rowe

Hi Brian,

Thanks for you response. Tin based alloys do not need a picke Just
use water, if it is a little sticky for some reason, then add a
little liquid soap. Very user friendly. You asked about Grey Oxides
on tin and Brittania Pewter. I am not sure of what grey oxides you
mean except when sometimes you leave the flux on after heating, it
gets kind of grey. As above, I would rinse right away and use liquid
soap if necessary.


If any of you are in the AZ area, I am scheduled to teach a workshop
on the hydraulic press and pewter October 16th-17th, 2010 at the
Randolph Center in Tuscon, AZ.

Here’s your chance to not only work with the fun, exciting, quick
acting metal of Pewter, but also to learn how to utilize the
Hydraulic Press. This will be a fast paced workshop with a
tremendous amount of You will learn how to solder, fuse
and form pewter, utilize the wonders of the hydraulic press, learn
how to create your own die for the hydraulic press, and have some fun
with quick pour castings.

I will also be giving a lecture and book signing on Friday night
October 15th.

Please go to for more and to

Hope that you can join us!

Lisa Slovis Mandel

I’m always looking for different materials to use just to keep
things new and keep me from getting bored and I have considered
trying pewter. My only concern is that I’ve heard you should keep
separate tools just for pewter work to prevent contamination of other
metals. Is that true? If so, I guess I could try to figure out the
minimum tools needed for my work and keep those in a ‘pewter tool
chest’. It sounds like a fun metal to use. I might give it a whirl.

I appreciate your sentiments. Firstly, I have never heard of
anyone having pewter allergies. I have heard of having an allergic
reaction to the flux (myself included), but I have found an organic
based flux that relieves that issue. 

I can wear it for about 2 hours before I start getting really itchy,
blotchy and red where it hits my skin. Rings are worse than
necklaces and I wouldn’t even dream of putting a pewter post in my

I’ve tried it with a few different pieces, and I get the same
reaction. I have a few girlfriends that design exclusively in pewter
and I’ve wanted to wear their pieces and I can’t. I used to wear it
all time as a kid without any issues. But it seems that my skin has
gotten more sensitive over the years. To other things besides

I know a few other people that have problems with it as well.


Regarding the contamination issue. Pewter has a much lower melting
temperature, so if any of your higher melting metals get pewter on
it and is then heated, the pewter will imbed itself in the other
metal. There are very easy ways to make sure that this does not
happen. Do not share any tools that hold the grit- files, sandpaper,
soft hammers (mallets). Also use separate tools that would be used
around the torch- tweezers, bricks, soldering pans. It would benefit
you to have a separate little area to use for pewter. It does not
have to be big. In graduate school, I would wheel over my little
typewriter stand with my 2 bricks on it, to the regular soldering
area, put my #00 tip on my Smith and work away. If you make a lot of
dust while sanding just wipe it up with a wet cloth. I work my silver
bench and my pewter bench side by side and in school, I always used
the same bench and just cleaned off in between.

Lisa Slovis Mandel

Hi Amery,

Interesting about your allergy- is it the copper in it? Do you the
same reaction to copper? You would definitely want to stay away from
pewter then with that kind of reaction. You are the first person I
met who has this kind of reaction.

Lisa Slovis Mandel