Detail of an antique pewter plate

A BADA guide to the care of antique pewter.

Antique pewter

Pewter is a metal alloy, composed predominantly of tin, mixed with copper, antimony, bismuth and in some instances, silver or lead.

First used by the Egyptians and later the Romans, pewter was predominantly used in the production of drinking vessels and tableware.

In daily use, it was traditionally common to polish pewter to give it a bright, untarnished appearance.

These days, many collectors prefer their pewter to have an authentic patina, so overzealous cleaning and polishing can damage the value of your items. 

Antique pewter is highly sensitive to scratching and denting so effective cleaning requires careful attention.

Cleaning pewter

To retain an authentic patina, dust your pewter lightly with a soft brush.

Residual fingerprints and dirt can be removed by light swabbing with methylated spirits.

After swabbing, gently rub your items dry with a soft cloth.

If you prefer to polish your antique pewter and remove unwanted tarnish, a delicate touch is essential.

Repeated vigorous polishing can lead to the loss of decorative details, filigree work and hallmarks

If you are at all uncertain about cleaning antique pewter, a BADA member will be happy to recommend a suitable specialist.

Protecting pewter

Painted pieces can be cared for simply by applying a good furniture wax with cotton-wool or a soft brush and buffing off with a soft yellow duster or cloth.

Oxidation, or rust on antique pewter can vary significantly according to the composition of the alloy.

If untreated, oxidation can eat through pewter and destroy important antique items.

If your object is valuable or precious, consult a pewter specialist for advice on oxidation restoration and repair.

For dealers who specialise in pewter click here

To browse pewter objects online click here

For advice on caring for antique Brass and Copper click here

For BADA recommended specialists in packing and shipping antiques and fine art click here