As far back as ancient times, human beings have used metals for making various items, including ornaments, jewelry, decorations, and other household or outdoor items.
Pewter and silver are examples of such metals. Why would I prefer one metal over another? Is it the same getting either or both? Different metals have their unique characteristics, and these distinguishing traits influence the preference of one metal over the other.
This article gives a general view of both metals to help you easily identify the metal bests suits your needs.
What is pewter
Pewter is an alloy composed of mostly Tin (85-90%), 2% copper, 5-10% antimony bismuth, and silver. Pewter has a low melting point of between 170-230 degrees Celsius. Its malleability allows it to be molten into different shapes and sizes to accommodate intended use.
Gravity casting in permanent molds is the typical technique for large production runs with pewter, which is easily castable. For casting miniatures, jewelry, belt buckles, and other items, centrifugal casting in rubber molds has lately become extremely popular.
Another effective method for mass manufacturing of pewter is pressure die casting, which has been utilized for larger finishes.
History of Pewter
The first recorded sighting of a Pewter was in an Egyptian tomb in 1450 BC. It was a decorative metal in Ancient Egyptian times, making metal plates and tableware. The Romans soon adapted the Egyptian ways and soon began using Pewter too.
Pewter then spread in Europe, and it was there where it found multiple uses. Significant production of cups, plates, pots, and bowls was essentially from Pewter. In the 18th and 19th centuries, pewter use decreased significantly due to the advancement in pottery and glassmaking. Glass and Porcelain replaced pewter use in daily life.
In the late 19th century, Pewter had a comeback. This time its primary use was for decorations on medieval objects. Pewter uses decorative purposes, aircraft models, plated jewelry, gaming figures, replica coins, and collectible figurines in the current times.
What is silver
Silver is a chemical element number 47 in the periodic table. It has the symbol Ag from the Latin word Argentum. Silver is shiny and has the highest electrical conductivity, reflectivity, and thermal conductivity exhibited by any metal.
Silver occurs naturally in the environment in combination with other elements such as chloride, nitrate, and sulfide. Silver chloride and silver nitrate are powdery white, whereas silver sulfide and silver oxide are dark gray to black in hue. Silver is often obtained during the extraction of copper, lead, zinc, and gold ores. You can combine it with other metals like gold to form alloys.
Silver is a precious metal, and although it’s scarce, gold is more challenging to find and, subsequently, considered more special. The preciousness of silver allows people to use it as monetary exchange or a measure of value.
Aside from currency, you can buy silver for jewelry, ornaments, solar panels, utensils, and water filtration.
History of silver
Silver is among the seven metals of antiquity known to humans. Ancient people used silver as a means of trade. As years went by, silver became more of a jewelry than a household item.
Copper was used more due to its structural strength. The silver trade became more popular when human beings discovered a technique to separate silver metal from its ores.
At some point in the 4th millennium, the Phoenicians obtained so much silver in Spain that they could not even make them fit their ships. By the time of Roman and Greek colonization, silver was widely popular and necessary in exchange.
Pewter vs silver: What’s the Difference?
Pewter is an alloy composed of different metals. If pewter is an alloy, it means that it does not exist as a single entity. On the other hand, silver is a pure metal and exists as a single entity.
But how can you tell the difference between pewter and silver? Well, to the naked eye, especially one that has not seen much of metals, differentiating between Silver and Pewter is not easy.
Determining them is even more complicated if the metals in question are aged or have had a considerable amount of wear and tear. Below are few tips on how you would distinguish the two metals if need be.
Below are the distinguishing factors between the two metals.
- The appearance: Silver has a shiny look. This shiny nature is one of the significant attractions of silver and plays a big role in the jewelry industry. Pewter, in contrast, has a “dull” silvery-gray look.
- The Composition: Pewter is a combination of several metals. Tin being the primary metal is combined with copper bismuth, antimony, and even lead or silver. Silver, on the other hand, is pure metal. It is a chemical element and is number 47 on the periodic table. Although silver is a pure metal, it can also exist as an alloy or just silver with impurities.
- Melting point: Silver has a specific melting point of 961.8 degrees Celsius. This high melting point is specific to the metal as a chemical entity. Pewter is an alloy, has a melting ranging between 170-230 degrees Celsius. This temperature is significantly lower compared to silver. The specific melting point entirely depends on the composition of the alloy. An altar in the ratio of the constituent metals will affect the melting point.
- Tarnishing: Tarnishing is an easy way of distinguishing the two metals. Silver tarnishes, but Pewter doesn’t. If you are looking to purchase and are unsure of the metal, you can leave them out for a while; if you notice tarnish in one of the metals, it would be silver.
- Specific markings: Metals usually have specific markings and more so if the item in question is jewelry. Natural, pure silver has markings of “.925,” meaning it is sterling silver. If it has marks of “800”, “900,” or any other different markings, the silver is an alloy or a blend of other metals in which pure silver itself has chances of not being present (Pewter).
- Denting: Silver also is very smooth; dents and any other markings on the surface mean it is Pewter since it is a soft metal that dents easily.
- Coloring: If the item’s color in the query is shiny or “silvery,” its name suggests, then it is silver. Simply put, silver is a shiny metal with a high luster. Pewter, on the other hand, looks dull and much darker than silver. Pewter looks lead-like.
- Nitric Acid test: Nitric Acid test is another easy test you can use to differentiate silver from Pewter. Nitric acid is cheap and readily available. Once with the test materials, carefully apply a drop of nitric acid to a clean area on the metal in question. If the acid changes its color, the item is silver.
Pros and cons of pewter
Let’s look at some of the benefits and downsides of this precious metal.
- Visually desirable: Pewter has an appearance similar to silver. This property makes it suitable to look at and hence can be easily used in jewelry or decorations.
- Easy to maintain: Pewter does not require special conditions for its storage. Hence, easy to maintain.
- Easy to polish-: Pewter is easy to polish and turns its dull look into a shade shinier. Pewter alloy does not require special conditions and can exist in any environment. A simple dusting or polishing should do the trick.
- Durable: Pewter is a durable material. Liquid Nitrogen helps harden the metal, increasing its durability. One can wear a Pewter whenever and wherever they want.
- Budget-friendly-: Pewter as jewelry is cheaper compared to other precious metals.
- Skin-friendly: Pewter is more suitable for individuals with sensitive skin. It rarely triggers an allergic reaction.
- It is soft- Pewter is delicate: At room temperature, the metal can quickly get dents and damages, which would look ugly in an ornament or jewelry. Softness in metal is a disadvantage because no one wants to buy a piece of jewelry and go back to the shop in less than a couple of years to purchase a similar product. Metal alloys are added to the pewter to make it stronger. Alternatively, you can add liquid Nitrogen to it to make the product harder.
- Contains lead: Antique Pewter contains information that is not advisable for items in contact with human skin. Exposure to high lead levels has numerous side effects, including weakness, anemia, kidney damage, and brain damage. Lead can break the placenta barrier, and the impact on a pregnant mother may affect the unborn child. Very high levels of lead exposure can lead to death.
Pros and cons of silver
Below are the benefits and downsides of silver:
- High-end appeal: Silver has a shiny look making it attractive. Most jewelry products have a bit of silver in them. The shiny nature is beautiful, both as jewelry or household items.
- Hard- Silver is hard at room temperature: It is hard for the metal to get easily damaged, cracked, or even superficial scratches. You have to use a significant amount of force to get silver damaged.
- Valuable: Pure Silver is precious and can give value in the exchange of money for other jewelry.
- Durable: Silver is very durable, and especially as jewelry. A little polishing once in a while will ensure its lustrous finish persists.
- Expensive: Silver is costly to obtain compared to lesser valuable metals. One kilogram of silver can cost multiples times significantly over the same amount of Pewter, for example.
- Tarnishing: Silver tarnishes after some time. Furnishing is due to wear and tear and primarily if it is not maintained correctly.
- Requires maintenance: a silver gift can last a lifetime. However, silver needs proper care to retain its original look. Regular polishing is paramount to get the best out of it.
Generally, both metals are suitable depending on what purposes you need them. As jewelry or household materials, they both have high appeal.
They are durable and require little effort to maintain, making them candidates for household items like plates, cups, and bowls. These properties are what have made the metals popular since ancient times.
Have you interacted with any of these metals before, leave us a comment and let us know what your experience has been with either silver or pewter.