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Pewter is popular once again!

by Jutta Mark, Alys Antiques, Cambridge
Until about 15 years ago the collection of antique pewter pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries was a very classy past-time. It followed that every good antique shop did their best to offer a selection of wonderful pewter pieces for sale. Sadly, the trend changed and fewer people collected and were willing to spend the money good pieces still demanded. In the last few years interest has slowly come back, and antique pewter is selling again. Discerning collectors once more enjoy the beautifully plain shapes, the colour, the texture and the historic connection.

So what is it about pewter that is so appealing? You have to imagine a time (before 1730 or so) when almost no porcelain ( what we today call China) tableware was available, That what came in from China and Japan could only be afforded by the rich. These were the times when porcelain was referred to as „the white gold" [1]. Now imagine a group of people sitting down to eat. What did they eat their food from? There was silver (no silver plate before 1750!), wood, pottery and pewter. Pewter was the most durable of all of these and those who could afford it used it. Dutch, English and German still-lives and interiors painted in the 1600s and 1700s show often include pieces of pewter.

Pewter is an alloy of tin, lead and antimony and quality and price were strictly regulated by a Royal Charter, which decreed that all pewterers had to mark their pieces with a distinct 'touch-mark' so they could be identified and ined if their pieces were not up to the required standard or if their prices were too high. Touch-marks were regisgtered with the „Worshipful Company of Pewterers" and made it possible to identify individual pieces. Some records were lost, however, in the great fire of London in 1666. The best pieces were made between 1660 and 1714. Often the designs were similar to those of silver. From the mid 18 th c (1750s) porcelain began to become the table-ware of choice. The area where pewter survived longest was in the pubic houses, i.e. pubs and hotels.

Although the above relates to English Pewter, the information is similar for German, Dutch and French pewter, which also is very collectable.
Here at Alys Antiques we have good examples of all of these for sale.

Alys Antiques
87A Victoria St, Cambridge


 

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