The allure of pewter

Words by:
William Gregory MRICS, Golding Young & Mawer
Featured in:
November 2017

Pewter has been used for thousands of years. From the late fifteenth century to the end of the seventeenth century it was the country’s preferred substance for the making of plates, dishes and drinking vessels.

It was only with the introduction of tea to this country and the Industrial Revolution that objects started to be made from a diverse mix of materials such as porcelain, silver and pottery.

Early pewter from the medieval period is very rare, with only four examples to be seen outside of galleries and museums. Items from the fifteenth century onwards do occasionally come on to the market but good collections, like the one recently sold at Golding Young, are very scarce and – with the benefit of online catalogues – generate a great deal of interest. The collection included good examples of household items such as plates, candlesticks, flagons and tankards.

Pewter is often produced plain and although this shows the design in a basic form, modern collectors are keen on decorated pieces. One of the most desirable types of decoration is wrigglework; this is where the pewterer has engraved or punched a design on to the surface.

The maker’s marks, or touch marks as they are more commonly known, also play an important part in the desirability of a piece. Like silver hallmarks, the marks for pewter were regulated and well recorded by the Pewterers’ Company and Parliament.

For collectors, the study of items through the design and the touch marks adds to the pleasure and reward, making pewter collectors both knowledgeable and enthusiastic when rare items appear on the auction market.

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