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Family History in Objects: Pewter Collection; Objects, History, Variety and Use

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Ann has an interest in many art forms; photography, writing, painting, sketching, sculpture and pottery.

Decorative Pewter

Plate, designed and stretched over a base.

Plate, designed and stretched over a base.

I collect pewter. Often called poor man's silver, it's an attractive alloy used for all sorts of objects. Some prefer it to look like silver and therefore polish it. Some, including most antique dealers, prefer it to be left with all its acquired ageing which adds authenticity. Excessive polishing can wear it down, as it is a soft and therefore malleable.


This alloy was previously made of tin with lead, sometimes antimony to add strength. Due to its use for making plates and goblets in olden times, many revellers suffered from lead poisoning. Though a decorative addition to the table, it’s best to leave them for display only. These days there is no lead used; copper may be added instead.

Why do I collect It?

My mother, a lady of many and varied artistic talents, loved working in pewter. She fashioned and hammered some wonderful designs, then stretched the piece over a base, sometimes wood, to make whatever object she had in mind. I was fascinated from an early age.

She covered a small wooden jewellery box with a carefully moulded design, using special wooden tools firm enough to mark the surface but not sharp enough to damage it. The surface was pitted to give texture. Three brooches, each with a cabochon, now reside in that box, all designed and realised by Mum. The box and its contents are among my most treasured possessions.

I also have a pendant in pewter, though I bought that at a car-boot sale. It has the letter L embossed on it, for Lorna, my older daughter.

I have continued my interest and am always on the lookout for an unusual piece.

Jewellery Box and Brooches

Jewellery Box lid, stretched and then pinned to the wood.

Jewellery Box lid, stretched and then pinned to the wood.

Jewellery Box

Jewellery Box

3 of Mum's brooches and the 'L' medallion

3 of Mum's brooches and the 'L' medallion

Uses - Practical and Beautiful

From practical uses to being sought after by collectors, this versatile alloy is popular due to its easy manipulation and its beauty.

Mine is a collection started from my mother’s inspiration. Soft and pliable, easily hammered and fashioned, it’s also easily modified. I like the patina, the different designs and any display can be sensational. I don’t even attempt to work it like my Mum but I do love searching for and buying it.

Tudric pewter is the most collected in Britain, as it pertains more to our history and is more valuable. There is Selangor pewter and Norwegian pewter, both having charming specific design characteristics. Other makes can be found but those are my favourites.

Just imagine what stories they could tell!

More of my Collection

Underneath a rickety table at a car-boot sale, in a box and wrapped in newspaper, were six goblets, not considered worthy of display and not priced up. I offered a meagre sum and took them home!

Mediaeval in style, in Selangor pewter, they have a plain elegance, are practical and a good size. We don't use them, just keep them for display. As many such objects, they are a conversation piece. I see the folk of Mediaeval times, sitting at long oak tables, noise and jollity abounding, filling these with their wines or mead and having a raucous time!

The plate at the head of this article is a sheet of decorated pewter, carefully stretched around a tin plate, hence the creases you see around the border. It looks fine on a lightly coloured wall.

This hinged-lidded sundial compass is useful, decorative and fascinating, intricately decorated and complicated in its fathoming. Sundials intrigue me; a traditional garden ornament as well as being an age-old way of time-telling. Much fiction has been woven round the presence of sun-dials. They have a mystery attached, transporting us to a distant past.

With a detailed sun motif on the lid, this sundial has a complicated display of numbers from 1-12 inside that lid, a small blue compass beneath the decorated inset which in turn shows Roman numerals I,II, III and 6 -12 round the central fretwork.

On the decorated underside are the words 'ARTIFEX . HOPTON CANGEFORD . LVDLOW . SHROPSHIRE . Hopton Cangeford, near Ludlow in the county of Shropshire, is its origin.


Another Selangor product, this object looks to have a simple lid but when you investigate it, the ‘lid’ is the whole length of the container, the outer part. It is air-tight, fitting snugly, resisting the vacuum when you try to re-open it. I find it wonderful in its simplicity. It’s a pretty, hand-hammered, charming thing. Is it for tea? For tobacco? Whatever the contents, they will keep dry.

Who used this? Someone in the far east might have had this on a shelf, keeping precious tea dry, or preserving tobacco for a good evening's smoke.

Flask and Vase

Presumably for whisky or the like, this flask is charming in its simplicity. It has a screw top and one side is concave, making it easier to grasp without slipping. How many have popped it into a pocket ready for a sneaky tipple when they didn't want anyone to notice or if they needed reviving on a cold day! The patina on this one indicates some use.

The Rose Vase is Norwegian pewter. The simple, clean design and shape, decorated with a modern, typically Scandinavian pattern, is appealing in its sleek lines. Add a single deep red rose and the picture is complete.

I'm a great fan of Scandinavian design, in both pewter and silver.

Standard Pewter Tankards

I couldn't write about pewter without mentioning the traditional tankard. They are common, of many shapes and designs, but have their place if they are particular editions or have peculiarities.

I have one with a glass base, with dice contained at the bottom. Glass bases were common in drinking vessels in more violent times, useful in a brawling crowd as the drinker could see who was approaching as he quaffed. I suppose the dice were useful if you were a gambler, though the ones in my tankard are sealed in.

Objects for Discussion

Such pieces are wonderful to start conversations and can be used for learning with students of any age.

I used the hammered canister for a study skills lesson with my dyslexic students, encouraging lateral thinking, conversation and reasoning. We decided what sort of questions to ask ourselves, involving history, geography, science, art and the object’s practical use. Who made it? How did they make it? Where does it come from? Thirty minutes went by in a flash, after which the students recorded their decisions and made sketches to accompany their finds.

It was a hugely productive lesson, for me and the pupils alike.


Pewter may be a poor man's silver but it is of the people, for the people. It can be easily fashioned on a whim, easily decorated and used with stones or gems. Its patina builds as countless men, women and even children have turned it in their hands to examine its shape and lines. Lives have been enhanced by its usefulness and its beauty.

To my mind, it gives us riches for the everyday and that's why I appreciate it so much.



© 2020 Ann Carr


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 11, 2020:

Thank you, Brenda. Those are interesting collections. The sundial takes quite a bit of sorting out and I haven't really mastered it yet.

I have also tried to comment on a couple of your hubs but as they're on LetterPile, there is no comments facility, sadly. I obviously didn't catch them quickly enough. Will try harder next time!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 11, 2020:

Thank you, Denise. Good to see you.

I haven't been able to comment on two of your recent hubs, as they've gone to niche sites, but I enjoyed them and I have sent you an email.

I am proud of my Mum and yes, she was very artistic, as are you!

Thanks for commenting.


BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on November 10, 2020:


I enjoyed reading your article in Pewter.

It is amazing that you have kept the collection going.

My mother collects bells but I do not see myself collecting them.

I used to collect snow globes. But my collection is now in a box with no where to showcase them if I did indeed have them with me.

I find pewter interesting and always look at pieces when I go yard selling.

Thanks for the info.

Oh...i really find the sundial most interesting.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on November 10, 2020:

What a wonderful collection and history. You must be so proud of your Mum. She sounds very artistic. Pewter is something I have never handled before but it sounds great. I have done some lapidary and cabbed stones, which was so much fun. Thanks for sharing.



Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 10, 2020:

Thank you, Dora, for your kind comments. I think it's important to value what our parents and ancestors have done; after all, it's what makes us who we are. Mum was a patient, quiet and kind person, one who would spend hours making something in cloth, wool, or pewter, until it was her best.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 10, 2020:

That's interesting, Mary. Yes, it makes them more special when they bring back precious memories.

Thank you for your visit and comments. I hope you're keeping well.


Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on November 09, 2020:

Very interesting! We take for granted objects made from pewter and similar materials because we do not understand their value. Your article teaches appreciation for their unique beauty. Congratulations on keeping your mother's legacy alive.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on November 09, 2020:

I used to visit the Selangor pewter store of a friend, and I learned a bit about them. I liked them and bought them for gifts. It's nice that your collection is connected to your Mom. It gives your collection more meaning.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 09, 2020:

Those sound great, Nell! I love ships too and the Elizabethan galleons are wonderful. I remember making a balsa model of one at school! No idea what happened to it, sadly.

Thanks for getting back.


Nell Rose from England on November 09, 2020:

I have around five in my bedroom. The Santa Maria, one of Columbus first ships, a Spanish Galleon, and a couple or three of generic ships from around 1700. I love my ships, lol!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 09, 2020:

Hello Nell!

Great that you have a jug from HMS Victory. That will go well with your ship collection then - what sort do you have? That would make an interesting hub!

Thanks for reading and leaving your input.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 09, 2020:

Hi Flourish! Thanks for your visit and comments. It's quite prominent in Britain as an ornamental choice, and is enjoying quite a revival.

Keep safe and well.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 09, 2020:

Hello Audrey! Thanks for your visit and kind comments. Yes, my Mum was good at all sorts of practical things and so was Dad; I inherited some of them in moderation but not pewter fashioning!

I hope you're keeping safe and well.


Nell Rose from England on November 09, 2020:

I love pewter too! I have a pewter jug from the Victory Ship. When I took it to auction they told me that it wasn't worth much as it was genuine but from a later date, around 1850. Just a guy who used it in the navy, so its next to my ships that I collect.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 08, 2020:

I’ve never considered it frankly. Your description shows commitments and determinationm

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on November 08, 2020:

Thank you, Ann for teaching me about pewter. I've always been attracted to it and now I appreciate it even more. Your mother was certainly gifted.You have a nice collection plus wonderful memories of your mother.

Be safe.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 08, 2020:

Thank you Aurelio. Good to see you here. I appreciate you reading and commenting. Keep safe snd well.


Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on November 08, 2020:

Thanks for this. I like pewter as well but mostly goblets and other drinking vessels.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 08, 2020:

Hello Linda! Great to see you.

Thank you for your kind words. Mum had such a variety of skills at her fingertips; shame I didn't inherit most of them!

Your neighbour's house sounds wonderful. I love antiques of any sort, my favourite era being Art Deco, especially jewellery, to which pewter lends itself so well.

Ah, yes, the acid in foods was responsible for so much of the food-poisoning. Wine brought it out in the goblets too.

Pewter is only now being regarded as more valuable.

Take care, Linda!


Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on November 08, 2020:

What a beautiful collection, all the more precious because you have memories of your mother associated with those pieces. I never imagined that a mere mortal (your Mum) could work with pewter. What an amazing talent!

My next door neighbor loves all things English. He was the director of the Arts Department at a local private school and every other year he would take a group of students to the U.K. He and his now-deceased wife created a wonderful collection. Their house is filled with antique furniture. A walk through their front door is like stepping back in time. They had the house built back in the early 1950s and every inch looks timeless.

You have taught me much today. Until reading this, the only thing I knew about pewter is that it is probably the reason the tomato was thought to be poisonous. The acid in the fruit leached out the lead in those pewter serving dishes!

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 08, 2020:

Thank you, Lorna. I'm glad this renewed your interest. They do have an ancient look when left unpolished, which is what I prefer too.

I have many more pewter objects but thought any more would be overload! I might do a second one sometime.

I always appreciate your visit and your support, Lorna.


Lorna Lamon on November 08, 2020:

I love pewter as it's so tactile and you have a varied and beautiful collection Ann. The brooches have a celtic look and the jewellery box is beautiful.

I inherited a couple of pieces from my Grandmother - a decorative plate (decorated with hens!!!), and a jug. I don't tend to polish them as I like the antique look.

Your mum was very talented and it's lovely that these items remain in the family. An excellent article Ann which made me look at my pieces with renewed interest.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Hello Peggy,

Thank you. Yes it was fun seeing such things materialise in front of my eyes. I feel that I should attempt a piece myself - maybe during this lockdown!

Keep safe and well.


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 07, 2020:

It must have been fun watching your mother fashion those pewter pieces. I did not realize that there were several types of pewter. You have a lovely collection.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Shauna, maybe it was somehow published twice! I did notice a strange glitch just after I hit the button. Weird!


Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 07, 2020:

Ann, I had two notifications as well.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Thank you Liz, for your kind comments. Yes, my Mum was talented; her passion was classical music as an accomplished pianist. She was also a lovely Mum and I'm glad to revive her memory in ways like this.

Keep safe and well.


Liz Westwood from UK on November 07, 2020:

Your mother must have been very talented. You have gathered an interesting collection. This is an interesting and well-illustrated article.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Hello Devika! Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, antiques are fascinating in so many ways.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Thank you, Pamela. I'm glad you have some of your mother's pieces. Antiques are fascinating, along with the history that goes with them.

Good to see you today.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Thanks, John. Pewter was popular in art deco times too, often decorated with turquoise stones - a striking combination.

Strange that you too had two notifications. Can't think why!

Coins and bank notes are interesting.

Thanks for the visit. I hope this stays on HP!


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Hi Eric! Interesting that your Mum had some. Glad you liked this. Jollity is old-fashioned so suited the subject.

Great to see you today. Take care.


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 07, 2020:

Ann I like your collection of Pewters. You have shared an interesting collection and write up about it. I like the idea of antiques, but nothing of a specific kind.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on November 07, 2020:

Ann, your pewter pieces are beautiful. My mother collected pewter, and I have inherited several pieces. It sounds like your mother was very talented. I love the historic feel of all pewter, and I collect other antiques as well. I enjoyed reading all the facts about pewter in your article.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on November 07, 2020:

I found this a very interesting article, Ann. I never new that older pewter usually had lead in it. I do now. I have a pewter tankard with a glass bottom but it is probably only thirty or forty years old.

I also have some beautiful pewter brooches that passed down from my mother and grandmother...made in Siam.

We don’t really collect a specific ornament though my wife has a few different ornamental birds.

I collect world coins and bank notes myself.

I love your pieces particularly the sundial and Norwegian pewter rose vase.

Oh, I just read Bill’s comment. I too was notified twice about this article..weird.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 07, 2020:

Fascinating. My mom (who owned and operated "Yesterday House Antiques") had quite a lot of pewter in the store but for some reason very little in the house. Count that as less than 20 pieces LOL.

She was very picky about how to use it on a dinner table or for serving. This made me think -- hey maybe my mom was snobbish of the poor man's silver.

What lovely pieces you showcase here to go along with great history. Oh I learned a new word also - Jollity

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Thanks, Shauna. Glad you enjoyed this. Your sparkly bits sound like quartz rocks of some sort.

My 2 year old grandson loves picking up stones and rocks. He seems fascinated by them. Budding geologist maybe!

I have stones and wood we've collected on beaches here and in New Zealand.

Thanks for your support.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Yes, Louise. Some lovely objects turn up on the shows about antiques. Thank you for reading. Good to see you.


Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

You're welcome, Rosina. I'm glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for the visit.


Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on November 07, 2020:

Ann, your collection is beautiful and oozes history. Yes, each piece begs the question, "Who did you belong to and what were the travels that led you to me?"

I think it's cool that your mom did pewter work. I always thought it was a more solid metal. I didn't know it can be manipulated and stretched.

I collect rocks. Whenever I or my son go somewhere beyond the Florida border (and even within), we look for usual rocks or petrified wood. My brother sent me three rocks he found in Aruba that actually nestle within each other. They have little sparkly flecks in them that makes them even more interesting. I don't know what kind of rocks they are, but they're beautiful and hold sentimental value for me. I have them displayed in my breakfront (some people call it a hutch) along with some brass pieces, silver pieces, rocks and petrified wood from Montana, and whatever else I find interesting and needs to be on display.

Thanks for sharing this, Ann. It's always nice to learn personal things about our online friends.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on November 07, 2020:

I don't collect anything, but I do like pewter. I often used to see this on The Antiques Roadshow.

Rosina S Khan on November 07, 2020:

I loved your pewter collection. This kind of collection was new and fascinating to me. Thank you for such a wonderful share, Ann.

Ann Carr (author) from SW England on November 07, 2020:

Thanks, bill! Lovely to see you here first.

What a shame you didn't find your mother's pewter; things often seem to disappear without us being aware. There was a beautiful photo of my mother when young, hanging in her parents' house when I was young - sadly, I have no idea what happened to it.

Thanks. I hope your weekend is great too. We have a four-week lockdown so I'm trying to write and clean and garden and write and garden and write.....