Overview of Pewter: Composition, Properties, Pros, Cons, Uses & Pewter vs Silver


Pewter is a unique material that has been used since a long time ago, it is still a good investment casting alloy in modern manufacturing. In this article, we are going to take an overview of pewter, involving its composition, properties, applications, advantages, disadvantages, differences between pewter and silver, etc.

What Is Pewter?

Pewter is defined as a soft and malleable tin-based metal alloy used historically and presently, its color is dull gray. The earliest use of pewter can be traced back to the Roman era at least 2000 years ago, in ancient times, pewter contained about 30% lead and 70% tin, but modern pewter does not use lead to avoid toxicity.


Is pewter magnetic? No. Different from lots of other metals, pewter is not magnetic, or to say, magnets do not stick to pewter, as none of the elements of pewter are magnetic, regardless of whether it contains lead or not


Pewter composition (What is pewter made of)

Modern pewter comprises about 91% tin, 7.5% antimony, and 1.5% copper.

– Tin: 85 to 99%

– Antimony: 5 to 10%

– Copper: 2%

– Other elements: Bismuth and Silver (sometimes)


Pewter applications (What is pewter used for)

– Tableware: pewter was widely used for items like plates, bowls, tankards, mugs, measures, spoons, and basins before ceramic/glass took over.

– Decorative uses: Pewter continues to be cast into decorative products like statues, figurines, lamps, candlesticks, and picture frames for homes.

– Jewelry: Some pewter alloys can be made into pendants, rings, and bracelets often in vintage, steampunk, or Gothic styles.

– Game Figures: Pewter miniatures are popular for wargames, role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons due to their versatility.

– Modeling: The alloy can be cast, engraved, and painted for scale architectural models, ships, aircraft, and artifact replicas.

– Badges: Medals, pins, and belt buckles are commonly struck from polished pewter alloys for achievement awards.

– Ornaments: Intricate Christmas ornaments, nutcrackers, and snowglobes using cast, finished pewter parts.

– Flasks/Decanters: Tankards, flasks, and hip flasks in pewter are manufactured for barware or spirits.

– Buttons/Closures: Uniform buttons, insignia, and belt clasps have been made from polished, stamped pewter.

Pros and Cons of Pewter

Advantages of Pewter

– Can be used for lots of casting processes like gravity die casting and investment casting.

– Ductile and malleable.

– High flexibility in designs.

– No impact on the life of the die/mold.

– Easy to produce lightweight and complex molded parts. 

– Highly corrosive resistance and tarnishing properties.

– Environmental-friendly and recyclable.

– Multiple surface treatments can be applied. 


Disadvantages of Pewter

– Relatively low hardness, yield strength, tensile strength and compressive strength.

– Heat treatment is required to gain some mechanical properties.

– Vulnerable to damage by acidic substances

– Easily to be scratched or dented.

Pewter Properties (Cold-Rolled Sheet)

Physical and Thermal Properties of Pewter

– Density: 7.28 g/cc (0.263 lb/in³)

– Melting Point: 244 – 295 °C(471 – 563 °F)


Mechanical Properties of Pewter

– Hardness (Brinell): 8

– Tensile Strength (Ultimate): 52.0 MPa (7540 psi)

– Elongation at Break: 50 %

– Modulus of Elasticity: 53.0 GPa (7690 ksi)


As for other properties, pewter is non-reactive and non-toxic, its ductility and malleability allow it to stretch and shape. It is also corrosion-resistant but vulnerable to staining and tarnishing. 

Pewter vs Silver, What Are the Differences

1.Composition. Pewter is a tin-based alloy containing about 91% tin and small amounts of antimony, copper and sometimes bismuth. Silver is the metal element silver (Ag), often sterling silver which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals like copper.

2.Color. Pewter has a dull gray color and looks darker than silver. Sterling silver has a brighter white color compared to pewter.

3.Hardness. Pewter is softer and more malleable than silver, it is easier to bend.

4.Value. Pewter is less expensive than silver, so the pewter material has a lower price, but the pewter jewellery might be valuable because of the beauty and workmanship after the production. 


How to tell pewter from silver?

There are some effective ways to distinguish pewter and silver. 

1.Check the color. Silver has a more bright shinny and lighter color compared to pewter. In addition, if the object tarnishes after a period of time, it should be made of silver, it not it is pewter. 

2.Sound. Pewter creates a hollow sound when tapped as it is softer, silver produces a brighter ringing tone due to its hardness.

3.Streak test. Rubbing pewter on a streak plate leaves a dull gray streak, silver leaves a shiny gray-white streak.

4.Scratch test. Pewter can be scratched by a steel blade while sterling silver resists scratches from steel.

5.Nitric acid test. If the color of acid changes, the alloy would be silver. 

6.Markings. Generally, the real silver will be marked with a number of 925, which means it is sterling silver, or marked with a number of 800 or 900 when it is a mix of different metals. In addition, if there are some dents and indentations on the metal, it is more likely to be pewter. 

7.Heat. You can use a lighter to heat the item, if the sample is silver, the lighter will leave black stains on the heating part. If it’s tin, you can’t find such stains.