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Tin-based alloy used to make domestic utensils. Pewter dates back at least 2,000 years, to Roman times. Ancient pewter contained about 70% tin and 30% lead. Such pewter, also called black metal, darkened greatly with age, and the lead readily leached out in contact with acidic foods. Pewter with little or no lead is of finer quality, and alloys that include antimony and bismuth are more durable and shinier. Modern pewter is about 91% tin, 7.5% antimony, and 1.5% copper; the absence of lead makes it safe to use for foods and beverages. The surface of modern pewter is bluish white with either a bright finish or a soft, satin sheen. It resists tarnish, retaining its colour and finish indefinitely.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pewter, visit Britannica.com.