Metalwork - Pewter. Paktong


Pewter is an alloy of tin with small additions of lead and other metals. Although it was in use for many centuries, and was displaced finally by pottery and porcelain, little remains that is earlier than the seventeenth century. It is a soft metal and subject to corrosion from the atmosphere, and it is perhaps remarkable that so much that is old has survived. The making and working of the metal was regulated by the Pewterers' Company of London from the mid-fourteenth century, and their rules stated that a worker should provide himself with a personal mark to be stamped on his wares. This mark or 'touch' was struck on a touch-plate belonging to the Company, but in 1666 the Great Fire of London destroyed the Pewterers' Hall and all its contents. The system was recommenced in 1668 and continued until the early years of the nineteenth century. At Edinburgh and in other places, a similar method was used.

In addition to the official 'touch' of the maker, many men added extra marks which were completely unofficial and bore a strong likeness to the hall-marks on silver. This resemblance was no more than superficial, and it is to be regretted that date-letters were not used on the metal.

Pewter was used for the making of domestic articles for everyday use; candlesticks, jugs, plates and dishes, tankards, spoons, and so forth. Most English pewter is devoid of decoration and relies on its good plain shaping for effect. Occasionally ornament in the form of engraving is found. Continental pewter, on the other hand, frequently has decorated knobs and handles in the form of cast figures, and is often engraved.


This is an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc, which resembles silver; it is slow to tarnish, wears well and was used occasionally in the eighteenth century for making candlesticks, fenders, grates and other articles. Paktong was imported into England from China, whence came also a pure zinc known as Tutenag. The two were often confused by writers.

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