Although examples of pewter fabrication can be dated back to1500 B.C., organized pewter production began in England during the Roman Empire's occupation. While there, the Roman soldiers smelted and molded pewter for their use from tin mined locally in Cornwall, England.
London had become the world?s largest pewter manufacturer by the mid 14th Century, and passed legislation detailing quality guidelines for pewter production under their jurisdiction. King Edward the IV granted a royal charter in 1474, which established England as the sole governing body over the trade of pewter vessels. The charter further allowed for the search and seizure of poorly manufactured pewter, and detailed punishment guidelines against offenders. The practice of the aforementioned stringent manufacturing controls helped establish and maintain the fine quality and reputation of British pewter.
Pewter production could not be confined to England by the end of the 16th Century. Quality controls were maintained by pewter guilds that were established in Paris, Bruges, Ghent, Bordeaux and Marseilles. Strong public recognition of the fine quality of English pewter wares, however, and caused many manufacturers abroad to stamp their products London or Enqusches Zinn to enhance sales appeal.
American colonists began to produce pewter by the end of the 17th Century, however raw materials coming from England were heavily taxed. Prior to the revolution, American craftsmen often reworked damaged pewter imported from Europe, resulting in American pieces of similar style and quality. Significant American pewter designs were crafted in the years between 1750-1850 by such masters as William Will, Robert Bonynge, Samuel Danforth, Peter Young and Parks Boyd.
Pewter, which is an alloy comprised mainly of tin with trace amounts of copper, lead, zinc, and or bismuth added prior to the 19th Century provide durability and finish. Craftsmen further discovered that the addition of antimony and exclusion of lead created Britannia pewter, a more safe and durable alloy. The strength added by the new formula allowed craftsmen to shape forms on lathes, or by die stamping.
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