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The History of Pewter and Paktong

By: rhusain
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 Pewterer Company of London from the mid-fourteenth century regulated the making and working of the metal, and their rules stated that a worker should provide himself with a personal mark to be stamped on his wares. This mark or 'touch1 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 hallmarks 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. Writers often confused the two.

There is no single volume dealing with the vast subject of metalwork in general, but the following books are on separate aspects:
Iron and Steel: Handbook of Ironwork, by J. Starkie Gardner, Victoria and Albert Museum; Iron and Brass Implements of the English House, by Seymour Lindsay (1927).

Bronze: Italian Bronze Statuettes, by W. Bode, in three volumes, published in 1907-8 is the standard work. The Wallace Collection Catalogue; Sculpture, by J. G. Mann (1931)* describes and illustrates many examples.
Brass: Dinanderie, by J. Tavenor-Perry (1910) deals with the brassware made in and about the Belgian town of Dinant in the late middle Ages.
Ormolu: There is no book that deals exclusively with this, but the Wallace Collection Catalogue, French Furniture, By F. J. B. Watson (1956),* describes and illustrates many examples.
Pewter: Old Pewter, its Makers and Marks, by Howard H. Cotterell (1929) is the standard work. A useful introduction is Old British Pewter, 1500-1800, by A. V. Sutherland-Graeme; a Victoria and Albert Museum 'Small Picture Book', British Pewter (I960)* illustrates and describes typical examples.
Paktong: Information on this metal is in Tutenag and Paktong, by A. Bonnin, published at Oxford in 1924.

Pewter was used for the making of domestic articles for everyday use; candlesticks, jugs, plates and dishes, tankards, spoons, etc. And paktong was used to make candlesticks, fenders, grates and other articles. Paktong was imported to England from China. Some of these books will help you in knowing more about these metals.

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About The Author, rhusain

Mitch Johnson is a regular writer for His articles have also appeared on and

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