This glossary contains terms that apply to American
pewter and to British pewter that was imported into this country
from the late 17th century to the first quarter of the 19th
century. For terms that apply only to British pewter, refer to
the Web Page of The Pewter Society
follow their link for a glossary of British pewter
Acid Treatment. A method
of cleaning pewter with acid. Also a process utilizing acid on
pewter to give it an aged appearance.
Antimony. One of the metals
that may be alloyed with tin to create pewter. First used by
French pewterers in the 17th century, by British pewterers in the
late 17th century, and by American pewterers in the 19th
A raised ring on the bottom of
a lid which fits inside the opening of a container in order
to keep the lid from moving laterally.
Baluster. An adjective used to describe a
hollowware form with a distinctive, slightly bulbous body and
usually associated with measures
Basin. A narrow
rim deep bowl, most often used domestically.
narrow decorative molding resembling a row of beads 1/16" or smaller
in diameter. It is formed by a beading tool, in somewhat the
same manner as a pie crimper, applied with pressure against the edge
of a rotating piece in a lathe. It is most often found on
Philadelphia pieces with neoclassic styling. Also see
simplest form of drinking vessel, usually a flared cylinder on a
molded base and without a handle. Used domestically and often
in churches in place of chalices.
Bellied measure. Seebulbous measure
Bismuth. A metallic element used
occasionally in pewter alloys as a hardening agent. Bismuth
expands while solidifying which allows more alloy to expand into the
Boardman. Refers to
Thomas Danforth Boardman, his brothers Sherman and Timothy, and the
various partnerships formed by the Boardmans during the first half
of the 19th century. Beginning in 1804 and ending in 1873,
this Hartford, Connecticut based family created the largest and
longest-running pewter making business in the early history of the
Bobeche. A disk
or flange-shaped extension at the top of a candlestick nozzle used
to catch and retain the candle wax drippings. Most are cast
with the nozzle but some are a separate casting and are removable.
booge). The round wall between the well and rim of a plate, dish, or charger.
Brim. The broad,
flattened upper edge or rim of a plate, dish or charger surrounding
the deeper body of the flatware.
An English trade description for a
lead-free pewter alloy containing antimony and copper. This
alloy was first introduced into England by a French pewterer, James
Taudin, in the mid-17th century, but it was not rolled into sheets
and formed by spinning and stamping until the late 18th century by
Sheffield manufacturers. The formula was discovered by
American pewterers in the early 19th century.
Bud. Term used
to describe a particular thumb piece type frequently found on
roughly "T"-shaped thumbpiece with each of the two side projections
resembling a leafed bud.
adjective used to describe a hollow-ware form with a rounded body and
usually associated with measures.
Burned On. A metal-to-metal fusing process. See Linen Mark
volatile, turpentine-derived liquid fuel used for lighting.
Camphene lamps are distinguished from whale oil lamps by their
longer, tapered burners without air slots. Wick caps are
usually provided to prevent fuel evaporation when not in use.
our Design Page
for oil lamp burner and lamp font
Capstan. A form
named after the devise used to tie a boat to a dock. In
pewter, a form often found in inkwells and sanders. Common in
English pewter; rare in American pewter.
scroll-like label that may contain the pewterer's name, place or
city, Hard Metal, London, or other words. See Pewter
whereby molten pewter is poured into a mold to form the desired
article. This was the main way of forming pewter articles
until the introduction of Britannia Metal allowed articles to be
cold-formed from sheet metal. However, even then casting
continued to be used for certain articles such as measures and it
was also used to form the knops, handles, feet etc. of articles
whose bodies were made from sheet metal.
pierced-top container used to dispense salt, sugar or sand.
Castor Holder or Cruet
A frame mounted on a flat base to hold small shaker-top
bottles of salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, etc.
used to describe a thumb piece of flagons and tankards in the eighteenth and
stemmed cup used for ecclesiastical purposes.
Charger. A piece
Coarse radial lines extending outward from the center on the bottoms
of mugs, tankards, plates, etc., and caused by vibration of the
skimming tool used in smoothing the pieces on a lathe. Chatter
marks are especially pronounced on 17th and 18th century pewter
skimmed on lathes with wooden bearings.
A piece of pewter, coin like (often round or rectangular), issued to
those determined suitable to take communion.
slow formation of a dark layer on the surface of pewter over
time. Depending on the alloy, the corrosion can range from a
very thin and hard layer to thick and crusty scale.
Crenate. Characterized by a
decorative scalloped edge as, for example, in lids of pewter
Dam. See Linen Mark
Dies. Engraved hard
metal punches used to impress a mark (or touch) in pewter for the
purpose of identifying the maker, the quality, or the owner of a
piece. See our separate page devoted to an explanation of Pewter Marks.
Dish. A piece of
Describes a flagon or tankard lid type.
Double dome lid.
Describes another flagon or tankard lid type. A stepped dome
that gives the appearance of a smaller dome atop a larger dome.
Term used to describe a particular thumb piece type frequently found
on baluster measures
adjective used to describe the body form of a piece of hollowware,
most often a teapot of neo-classic design. It can be used to
describe the body form of a mug, tankard or flagon but these are often referred
to as a tapered cylinder.
English Export Pewter.
English pewter exported to America from the late 17th
century through the first quarter of the 19th century. Several
forms such as pear-shaped teapots and creamers, drum-shaped teapots,
and sugar bowls were made specifically for the American market and
are rarely found in England. At the time of the American
Revolution as well as today, there are more pieces of English Export
Pewter to be found in this country than pieces made by American
Electroplated Britannia Metal . Used to designate a
piece of Britannia Metal that has been silver plated.
Oxidation (corrosion) which has resulted in surface
Fake. A piece made purposefully to deceive
prospective buyers. Note: See Collecting Antique Pewter, What to
Look for and What to Avoid, by PCCA 2006 for the
most indepth coverage of "fakes" in Antique Pewter to date.
Ferrule. Socket on pewter
teapots, coffeepots, etc. into which wooden handles are inserted,
pinned, and thus attached.
narrow, slightly raised band often used around the body of a
tankard, mug, measure or flagon for decoration and to
strengthen the cylinder wall.
Various. The knop of a spoon; the terminal end of a handle on
a tankard, mug, etc.; or the knop on the lid
of a flagon, teapot or other lidded piece.
Flagon. A lidded container,
typically used in a church to carry wine for the sacraments.
Used domestically as well.
Excess pewter found around the edges of a new casting caused by
molten metal flowing out
from a seam in the mold. Flashing is cut off and
discarded during the finishing process.
Flat lid. As
opposed to dome lid . Describes an American
tankard lid type made in the 18th
century but patterned on the English flat lid tankards (Stuart
tankards) of the 17th century.
given for pewter such as plates and dishes, to distinguish it from
Hollow-ware. A more modern term for
Flux. A substance such as
glycerin and acid used to clean two pieces of metal to be joined
together with solder. Flux also aids the flow of solder over
Font. In pewter
lamps, the closed reservoir which holds the liquid fuel (whale oil,
cammphene, etc.). Also, a bowl-like vessel used in the
Sacrament of Baptism.
Gadrooning. A decorative cast molding
resembling a row of oval-shapped beads 1/4" or so in size. In
American pewter it is most often found on candlesticks made by the
Meriden Britannia Manufacturing Co., Flag & Homan, and Homan
& Co. A narrow rope-like type of stamped gadrooning is
found on some Trask britannia pieces. Also see
Garnish. A set
of sadware for the table, usually a dozen
of each size.
quarter of a pint.
Gimbal or Ship's Lamp.
A lamp attached to its base by a suspension device which
allows it to swing freely and remain level when the base is tipped.
Similar in appearance (but not meaning) to hall marks used by gold
and silversmiths. Designed by the maker and presumably used to
make pewter appear as much like silver as possible. See Pewter
The booge of all English sadware was hammered; however American
pewterers discontinued this practice, as a means of reducing costs,
after the Revolutionary War. Hammering was thought to
strengthen the metal, but modern metallurgists know that pewter
quickly loses this strengthening effect.
A 19th century Irish measure with a shape similar to
a haystack. Never imported into this country, but many were
brought here by Irish immigrants in the 19th century. Many
have also been brought into this country in the 20th century by
collectors and dealers.
Vessels (such as mugs, tankards, and flagons) made to hold liquids, as
distinct from sadware.
Established throughout Great Britain in the Geo. IV
Weights and Measure Act of 1824 with introduction delayed until 1
January 1826. This replaced the Old English Wine Standard
(OEWS) and many other regional standards in the UK. The Act,
of course, had no effect on America's use of the OEWS which
continues in use to the present time. 1 Imperial Standard
Gallon = 1.2 OEWS Gallon.
trained craftsman working for a master pewterer.
Knop. A bulge or
knob on the stem of a chalice or candlestick for decoration and
convenience in holding.
Lathe. A machine tool by which
work is rotated on a horizontal axis and shaped or cut by a fixed
Knurled. A series of small
beads pressed or cut into a metal edge. When used in a
decorative mode, it consists of lines (straight or curved) in a band -
sometimes found around the lid, body or base of hollowware and sometimes found around
the edge of flatware.
Lead. One of the
metals that may be alloyed with tin to create pewter. Because
there were no tin mines in this country, the only source of tin for
18th century American pewterers was scrap English pewter, melted
down and adulterated with lead. This is why, generally, most
American cast pewter will contain more lead than comparable English
pewter. Britannia, English or American, contains
no lead and modern pewter, by law, contains no lead.
Linen Mark. The
handles of porringers and some other pewter vessels were attached by
fusing the metal without solder. A handle mold with openings
at points of connection was placed against the finished body of the
vessel and then filled with molten pewter, which melted part of the
body at the joint, forming a strong bond. A "tinker's dam," a
heat-absorbing bag of linen or burlap filled with wet sand, was
pushed against the inside of the vessel during this procedure and
usually left an imprint of the cloth--a "linen mark"--in the
softened metal adjacent to the exterior contact with the handle
Maker's mark .
Mark. See hall
mark, maker's mark, secondary mark, touch mark and verification
mark. Also see Pewter
Measure. A container of standard capacity regulated by
government inspectors who verified the capacity and placed
verification marks on the measures. Lidded baluster measures
of the "Bud" and "Double volute" type were exported to this country
from England and marked with American verification marks. It
is believed that some of these baluster types were made in America
but only a couple have been found with American maker's marks.
The Boardmans of Connecticut made lidless baluster measures in the
19th century. English bulbous measures were made throughout
the 19th century and well into the 20th century but were never
exported to this country. However thousands have been brought
to this country by dealers and collectors since World War II.
Mug. A lidless,
handled container of various forms and standard capacities.
Frequently used in taverns to serve beer, ale, or spirits.
Mugs are usually wider at the bottom than at the top. Silver
mugs are often called "Canns".
descriptive term for a plate, dish or charger with several decorative reeds
or moldings at the edge of the rim, usually cast but occasionally
incised. Popular from c 1675 to 1715. Scarce in English
pewter; extremely rare in American pewter.
Narrow rim. A
plate (or, rarely, other sadware) with an exceptionally narrow rim,
less than 10% of the overall diameter. The only American
sadware form with a narrow rim is in the basin.
English Wine Standard, the most commonly used standard for liquid
measure in England during the 17th, 18th and early 19th
centuries. It was used in the American colonies as well and
continues in use in the U.S. to the present time. However, the
United Kingdom adopted the Imperial
of the processes which contributes to corrosion.
Patination. The surface
appearance of any object caused by age and use; a patina.
Collectors' Club of America.
Pewter. An alloy consisting
predominately of tin, but alloyed with some other metal(s) to make
it stronger and harder. Metals that have been alloyed with tin
include copper, antimony, bismuth and lead.
See our separate page devoted to an explanation of Pewter
Plate. A piece
Planish. To give
a smooth finish to metal by repeated striking with a smooth faced
hammer. A technique used by 17th and 18th century English
pewterers and 18th century American pewterers to give a more
finished appearance to intricately designed porringer handles.
It is especially noticeable on "Crown Handle" designs but was used
on other designs as well. The practice was discontinued in the
small bowl with usually one flat handle cast onto the side of the
bowl although Pennsylvania "tab handle" porringers have a plain
handle cast with the bowl. Most porringers have decorative and
intricately cast handle designs. The six basic types are:
Crown; Old English; Flowered; Hearts & Crescent; and Solid or
Tab. See Porringer Handle
Attributions of maker, owner, or locality made.
tapering extension or thickening of a spoon handle onto the
underside of the bowl.
molding, usually cast, around the edge of sadware; multiple or
single denoting period made.
decoration formed by hammering from the underside.
Reproduction. A piece made to
appear as an older form with no intention to deceive the buyer as to
Ringed Foot. A metal ring
applied to the base of an item (usually hollowware) which elevates
the bottom from the flat surface. Rings
were applied to objects in order to reduce wear, protect the underlying surface,
and as a decorative element.
dishes and chargers. A more common term today is flatware.
American vs. English
5" to 7"
5" to 10"
7 1/2" to 10"
10" to 13"
10" to 18"
Saucers were not made in American pewter and were out
of fashion in England by 1700. Small American plates in the 5"
to 6" range are called butter plates and marked ones are rare.
The largest known American charger is 19"; the largest known English
charger is 36". Some early reference books refer to chargers
as platters, but today the term platter is usually reserved for oval
Scale. Hard oxide on
pewter. Prone to flaking with rough handling.
Scrape marks. Visible tool marks that
remain after manually removing surplus metal and smoothing rough
surfaces of cast
pewter. Spoons and mug handles often show such marks.
forming technique used in the manufacture of Britannia cylindrical vessels. A
sheet of pewter would be bent into the desired shape, the joint
where the ends meet bonded with solder, and the resulting seam
disguised through polishing and placement under an attached
handle. Usually more visible on the inside of a vessel.
Any mark other than a touch mark which was struck on his/her wares
by a pewterer. Common secondary marks include hall marks, a
crowned X mark, the pewterer's city, and owners initials. See
Single reed. A
descriptive term for a plate, dish or charger with a single cast reed or
molding at the edge of the rim (on the upper surface). Popular
from the 18th century into the 19th century.
process of removing surplus metal and smoothing rough surfaces of
cast pewter by scraping with a tool as the piece rotates on a lathe.
Marks left by skimming tools, usually found on the backs of plates,
the outside bottom of porringer bowls, basins, mugs and tankards,
areas less frequently seen and therefore not as carefully finished.
Slush Cast. The
casting method used in pewter manufacturing to create hollow
appendages such as handles and spouts. Hot pewter poured into
a cool mold solidifies around the contact with the mold, allowing
the still molten core to be poured out.
alloy, usually of lead and tin, which melts relatively easily and is
used to join pieces of metal such as pewter. As a verb,
the process of joining metals with a solder bond.
Spinning. Process of forming an
article by mounting a piece of sheet metal on a chuck and forcing it
over a form while it is rotating.
A metal strip of
shaft sometimes found on the back of porringer handles to add strength.
Process of forming an article by stamping a piece of sheet metal
over a form in a press.
cylindrical drinking vessel with a handle, a hinged cover, and a
projecting thumbpiece for raising the cover or lid. Tankards
are usually wider at the bottom than at the top. (Unlidded drinking
vessels are usually called "mugs".)
Tin pest. The
disintegration of pure tin into powder at very low temperatures as
it loses its crystalline structure. Contrary to the statements in
some early books on pewter, tin pest never affects pewter which is
usually a tin alloy.
reed. A multi reed plate, dish or charger with three reeds or moldings
on the rim, either cast or incised.
Government inspector's marks placed on a vessel
certifying that the vessel was of proper standard to dispense a
particular measure. Pieces may have been initially verified at
source of manufacture, but were certainly verified at their place of
use as well. American verification marks are usually found
only on baluster measures made in American or imported from England.
Waisted oval. A term used
to describe an oval shaped pewter mark with pinched-in sides whereby
the ends are wider than the middle.
piece of sadware whose rim is formed of curved segments.
This mark is found on English sadware including pieces exported to
America. Designates lead-free pewter containing antimony,
i.e., a high quality alloy.
Wriggling or Wrigglework.
Zig-zag "engraving", made by walking a
screwdriver-like tool from corner to corner of the blade.