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Unmarked early 19th century pewter teapot. Courtesy of Garth’s Auctions, Delaware, OH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

News Article

IDENTIFYING OLD PEWTER TAKES RESEARCH AND SHARP EYE

As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, March 2009

That pewter dish you spotted in a country shop looks like it could be 18th century and American. Take a closer look and you may discover it was made in the early 20th century.

Don’t be surprised. The interest in collecting old pewter that began during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia resulted in reproductions. It happened again in the early 1920s when Americans once again looked to the late 18th century for furnishings and collecting. Some of the important pewter collections were formed then. For the first time American makers were identified and cataloged in books. Prices began rising. By the 1960s rare examples of American pewter sold for hundreds of dollars. New collectors began including pieces from England, Germany and France in their collections. Even pewter made in the 1930s and 40s, in the old forms, such as porringers became collectible. The inevitable happened. Married pieces and outright fakes began showing up at shows and shops. Most common were married porringers with new handles.

These days pewter has lost much of its popularity. The rarest examples are in museums. Auction prices for early 19th century pieces with authenticated American maker’s marks sell in the low hundreds.

Transitional pewter, known as Britannia, made after 1830, was once snubbed by pewter purists. The only difference is that pewter was cast in a mold and Britannia was spun on a lathe, against a wooden chuck turned to the desired form. However the spinning marks were burnished off . The pieces are marked “Britannia.”

CLUES: If an item is stamped “pewter” it was made in the 20th century. Be wary of so-called 18th century porringers. Check for a “linen” mark at the inside of the handle, where the cloth-covered tongs touched the pewter during the heat finishing. It left a cross-hatch mark.

Knowing the terms describing pewter are important. Punch marks or “touches” include symbols, initials and makers or owners names punched into the pieces.

Pewter served many functions. Ecclesiastical pieces that were part of church ceremonies included flagons, beakers, basins and candlesticks. They aren’t usually marked.

Invest in one of the many books with illustrated pewter marks. 18th century American eagle touch marks have often been worn away leaving only wing tips or beaks.

If you decide to collect 20th century American pewter there are plenty of items still available and at bargain prices. Consider baby and children’s cups, bowls and spoons. They will have nursery rhyme motifs and alphabet letters. Another category are Arts and Crafts period designs. Collectors look for Liberty (Tudric) pewter made in the Art

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