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All Pewter is Not the Same

There is an increasing interest concerning the presence of lead in pewter alloys, and the potential health hazards of lead. We hope the information presented here will expand your understanding of the pewter used by TierraCast, as well as other alloys that are used in the jewelry trade.

 

The Federal Trade Commission and the American Pewter Guild define pewter as a “metal alloy product of which the chemical composition shall be not less than 90% Grade A Tin, with the remainder composed of metals appropriate for use in pewter.”

TierraCast uses an alloy called “Britannia”, composed of 92% Tin, 7.5% Antimony and .5% Copper. Tin is refined from ore that contains other metals, including lead. The refining process removes most of the lead, but trace amounts still remain. Our casting alloy is routinely tested for lead content, yielding results ranging from <40 to 300 parts per million (ppm). This is well below the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) standard of 500 ppm deemed safe for pewter used for culinary purposes in contact with food. Although virtually all pewter contains trace amounts of lead, the term "lead free pewter" is used to describe pewter that meets the stringent FDA standard.

Unfortunately, many jewelry components are made of metal containing substantial and sometimes alarming amounts of lead. Tests that we have run on other cast jewelry components yield lead contents as noted in the chart below.

 

Britannia

Pewter

Cast Metal

Lead content as a % of total

.025%

8%

60% - 94%

Lead content in parts
per million

<40 to 250 PPM

80,000 PPM

600,000 ppm - 940,000 ppm

Safety Assessment

“lead free”
Safe enough for eating utensils

Meets
definition of
pewter

Not pewter, most likely a foreign source, be wary

 

Lead can be used in pewter alloys because it is easy to cast and less expensive than tin. However, lead is a known toxin that accumulates in the body causing numerous physical ailments. In recent decades, focus on this problem has resulted in the elimination of lead in gasoline and paint. Now there is increasing concern and discussion about lead content in metal alloys used in items that come in contact with people, particularly children. This has led to the recall of millions of metal jewelry items that were manufactured overseas.

TierraCast takes the issues concerning lead very seriously and buys only pewter that is routinely tested to comply with stringent FDA limits. This way, we protect our clients, ourselves and our environment from exposure to lead. We continue to research this issue and will share what we learn as more information becomes available.