Pewter is a mixture of two or more metals, with about 90 percent tin. As far back as the 11th century, people used pewter objects for religious purposes and only the wealthy could afford them. Through the years, pewter became commonplace and lost its appeal for the affluent by the 18th century. Pewter craftsmen did not develop a date or letter system, so pewter became less consistently marked. There isn't an exact science to help you identify pewter marks, although any marks can help provide evidence as to who made the pewter item and estimate the financial worth of the piece.
Inspect your pewter item for any identifying marks with a magnifying glass. It’s critical to see all the details, such as a maker’s name or initial or a picture of a crown or an owl, and you may also find the name of a town.
Make a note of the precise details of the mark on your pewter item. You may find numerous marks and each mark is important in identifying it. According to the website "Old Pewter," your pewter item may have several different types of marks, including; quality marks, touch marks, hallmarks, town marks, verification marks and owner’s marks. Labels started appearing on pewter pieces around the 18th century and catalog numbers started appearing in the 19th century.
Search your library and online for books on pewter marks and purchase one that is most useful for your item. The Pewter's Collectors Club of America lists the most useful books that can assist you in identifying American pewter marks, while The Pewter Society has sources on British pewter (see Resources).
Visit a local antique dealer who specializes in pewter. Dealers often can help with the identity of pewter marks.
Take photographs of your pewter item. Capture pictures that show the whole pewter item and also take several closeups and clear pictures of all the marks. Download the pictures of the pewter and marks to your computer. Save the pictures as a JPG file so you can send them through email.
Email pictures of your item to The Pewter Society to receive help with identification. If you’re not a dealer, they will help at no charge to you. They will attempt to identify your item but they will not guarantee they can. Research can take many hours and there are many marks not identified yet. They mainly deal with British and Irish pewter before 1910 but may be able to help with some North American and European pewter. (See Resources.)
Get an appraisal from a pewter specialist. This option will provide you with researched answers by someone who is knowledgeable in the field.
- Magnifying glass
- Digital camera
Researching pewter will take patience and a considerable amount of time. The history that the marks reveal will be worth your search.
Older pewter pieces have lead in them, so use caution when handling these items.