Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Stone Mosaic Made Of?
What are the Metals Employed in this Jewelry?
The History of Pewter
What is Fine Silver Overlay?
The History of Silver Mining in Taxco
What isTaxco .925 Silver Jewelry?
Subscribe to .925 Taxco
Sterling Silver Jewelry
Sea Shells
Other Natural Materials we employ in our Handcrafted Jewelry
Design Development
What is Jeweltone Jewelry?
Artesana Trabajando
Working Ladies
Jewelry Hand Made Working
Frequently Asked Questions
shopping cart icon ethical fair trade jewelryReturn to Shopping Cart
Artisan Owned Direct Distribution Model

artesanas campesina metal alloy german silver ethical fair trade jewelry

    What are the Metal Alloys Employed in this Jewelry?


Fine Pewter is an alloyed metal made from tin, antimony, copper, bismuth. Fine Silver Pewter means a small amount of silver has been added to improve malleability of the jewelry.
Pewter is highly ductile, this means that it can easily be worked, embossed, or carved. Pewter has been employed for thousands of years, at least since Roman times, and the metal has been highly prized in cultures around the world. Pewter and is traditionally used fore tableware and decorative items.
Tin is the element with the greatest concentration in pewter.

The other elements in the alloy are used as hardeners,
to make pewter practical for daily use and metalworking.
Classically, pewter has been cast in molten form,
by sand-casting or the centrifugal rubber mold casting method, although it has also been worked in other ways
(hammering, stamping, construction, etc.)
Pewter is also highly tarnish resistant,
although it does form a protective patina with age.

Historically, pewter was once very expensive, owned only by wealthier elements of society. In color, pewter starts out glossy and bright, almost like Sterling silver. Over time, the metal oxidizes and acquires a grayish tint. Old Pewter has lead which imparts a bluish tinge and increased malleability; HOWEVER, lead tends to escape from the alloy in poisonous  and may cause the item to rust, tarnish, or deteriorate.  Pewter made with lead will eventually turn black, explaining the alternate Roman name of “black metal.”. The addition of lead to pewter is potentially dangerous. Lead can leach out, especially into food, which is why pewter tableware has been linked with cases of illness historically. Because lead is cheap and easy to work, it was a very popular addition in pewter alloys historically, which is why people should not actually use antique pewter for eating. Modern pewter tableware is made without lead, and it is safe to eat from, however consumers may desire to confirm the absence of lead with the manufacturer.

Around the 12th Century A.D., pewter was affordable only to the wealthy, and was on the table of only castle halls and in the houses of rich merchants and churchmen. Later, its use spread into taverns and cottages. With the introduction of pottery and glass, its use declined during the 18th and 19th centuries. In a sense, replacing pewter with glass and pottery was the best thing that could have happened for the health of society at the time. The 17th and 18th century pewter was made from a composite of lead and tin -- not a healthy option since these pewter items were needed for drinking or cooking. Because today's society realized to what degree the lead leaching out of the pewter could be dangerous to one's health, people shied away from using pewter items .

The pewter alloy in our jewelry is completely free of any trace of lead and is completely legal for entry in the United States and into the European Union.

Care and Cleaning

Caring for pewter is fairly easy. The metal is susceptible to damage by acids, so it should always be promptly washed with gentle soap and warm water if it has been exposed to things like vinegar or lemon juice. It should be washed with a sponge or soft cloth to avoid scratching the metal, and dried thoroughly. Pewter can also be cleaned with specialized polish, although people should not use generic metal polish on pewter, as it can damage the metal. Consumers should also be aware that pewter melts at low temperatures, and it should not be exposed to extreme heat.

Pewter is a silver-white alloy consisting principally of tin. The properties of pewter vary with the percentage of tin and the nature of the added materials. Antimony adds whiteness and hardness. Modern pewter, better known as fine pewter, is a lead-free alloy of tin mixed with a small proportion of another metal, (generally copper, antimony, bismuth or silver). Pewter is considered to be the fourth most precious metal in the world after platinum, gold, and silver. It is a comparatively soft metal, silver gray in color and does not tarnish, rust, or deteriorate.

Pewter is worked by casting, hammering, or lathe-spinning and is usually simply ornamented with rims, molding, or engraving, although some pieces especially of the Renaissance period in France and Germany, exhibit intricate ornamentation. Because modern pewter, often classified as Fine Pewter, contains no lead, the clocks or other items such as figurines have a finer, cleaner, and brighter appearance.

How is today's pewter different from the pewter used from the 12th to the 19th century?

As modern pewter jewelry artisans we have

  • gotten rid of the lead all together (certiaable lead-free pewter)
  • used a mixture of at least 90% tin with the balance made up of copper, antimony, bismuth and silver.

Artists can do so much with fine pewter because it is a very easy medium to work with, and it allows the craftspeople to fabricate ornamental items with exceptional detail  The consumer prizes the products made of Fine Pewter because it has lasting value. Under normal conditions, it will not tarnish, rust, or deteriorate in any manner. Fine pewter is very collectible, affordable, and cherished for its longevity and lasting value. It is now fashionable to use pewter instead of silver for everyday use. Pewter is easy to store, never wears out, and can provide the enlightened consumer with the ability to put on a splendid display on those special occasions.

It can also be readily engraved with an inscription by any competent jeweler.

Care and Polishing of Fine Pewter Jewelry

Taking care of a pewter item is very easy -- no work

Unlike silver, Fine Pewter does not require polishing.
Pewter can be polished but others prefer to let the pewter age and acquire an antique look.
All it really needs is an occasional dusting with a soft cloth. If you feel you want to do more,
handwash with only mild soap and warm water and dry thoroughly.
(Abrasive cloths, cleanser, or cleaning sprays can damage your clocks or figurines).

Stamped, Numbered, dated
-- What does it all mean?

When a pewter figurine is part of a limited edition collection,
but in that case there would be a special number such as 250/4000 (meaning it is number 250 out of 4000 made).
Some limited editions also come with a certificate of authenticity. When in doubt, ask questions.

1) Fine pewter is identified as the fourth most precious metal in common use.

2) Even though modern Centrifugal Rubber Mold casting technology is advanced and there have been breakthroughs
in manufacturing, there is still a great deal of hand craftmanship involved. What is so amazing is that a good artisan
can so constantly produce many pieces with minor variations. These minor variations contribute
to the charm of handcrafted pewter jewelry items!

3) Some companies use an acid bath procedure to give the item its antique or a contoured highlighted appearance.

Why do some pewter items look shinier, have a "mirror-type" look?

The finished look depends not on the pewter's composition but on the way it is finished.
The item gets a bright or shiny finish if the craftsman determines to buff it with special jewellers' roughs
and finishing compounds to produce the shiny hand-finish.
Otherwise, when a piece of casted pewter jewelry is barrel-finished,
the resulting look is more satiny. The fine silver pewter we employ is 100 lead free,
so items made with this alloy is quite safe to handle,
and jewelry will retain its natural silvery appearance with very little effort of the part of the owner.

What is German Silver?

German silver name for various alloys of copper, zinc, and nickel, sometimes also containing lead and tin. German silver varies in composition, the percentage of the three elements ranging approximately as follows: copper, from 50% to 61.6%; zinc, from 19% to 17.2%; nickel, from 30% to 21.1%. The proportions are always specified in commercial alloys. For the past decades, German silver is extensively used in the fabrication of fashion jewelry because of the hardness, toughness, and resistance to corrosion, including for articles such as tableware (commonly silver plated), marine fittings, and plumbing fixtures. Because of its high electrical resistance it is used also in heating coils..

In the 19th century, particularly after the 1860’s, sheets of German silver became widely-available to USA Plains Indian jewelers, who cut, stamped, and cold-hammered a wide range of accessories and ornamental and functional horse gear. Continuing into the present, Plains metalsmiths have used German silver for pectorals, pendants, bracelets, armbands, hair plates, conchas, earrings, belt buckles, necktie slides, stickpins, dush-tuhs, and tiaras.[2] Nickel silver is the metal of choice among contemporary Kiowa and Pawnee metalsmiths in Oklahoma.
Early in the twentieth century, German Silver was used by automobile manufacturers
before the advent of steel sheet metal, ie.the famous Rolls Royce Silver Ghost of 1907.
After about 1920, its use became widespread for pocketknife bolsters,
due to its machinability and corrosion resistance. Prior to this point, most common was iron.

German Silver Use in the Keys of Musical Instruments

Musical instruments keys, including those of the saxophone, clarinet, flute, trumpet, and French horn can be made of nickel silver. For example, some leading saxophone manufacturers such as Keilwerth,[3][4] Selmer, P.Mauriat, Yanagisawa, and Yamaha offer saxophones made of nickel silver which possess a bright and powerful sound quality; an additional benefit is that nickel silver does not require a lacquer finish. For that reason, it is the most commonly used woodwind keys material — most oboes and similar wind instruments have nickel silver keys. It is used to produce the tubes (called staples) onto which oboe reeds are tied. It was used in the construction of the National tricone resophonic guitar. Guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, etc. frets are typically made of nickel silver. Nickel silver rails are also considered superior to steel in model railroading.


History of German Silver (Alpaca) Alloy

Silver appearing copper family alloys have been known in the ancient Orient and coming into Europe in the form of from imported products called paktong or pakfong (literally "white copper") where the silvery metal colour was used to replicate sterling silver. According to Berthold Laufer, it was identical with khar sini, one of the seven metals recognized by Jābir ibn Hayyān.[6] It was discovered to be a copper-nickel-zinc alloy in the 18th century. In 1770 the Suhl (Germany) metalworks were able to produce a similar alloy and in 1823 a competition was initiated to perfect the production process by creating an alloy that possessed the closest visual similarity to silver. The brothers Henniger in Berlin Germany and Ernst August Geitner in Schneeberg independently achieved this goal. Alpaca became a widely known name in northern Europe for nickel silver after it was used as a trademark brand by the German manufacturer Berndorf.

Nickel silver became widely used after 1840 with the development of electroplating, as it formed an ideal strong and bright substrate for the plating process. It was also employed unplated in applications such as cheaper grades of cutlery.
For many years, Alpaca silver was a component in several European coins, including the Portugese escudo and the German mark. In some forms of composition, Alpaca silver is found in technical machinery and industry. This alloy can be found in various components for boats, and in plumbing, due to its corrosion-resistant composition. It is also used in heating coils, as this alloy is highly resistant to electricity. Because of its visual similarity to sterling silver, Alpaca silver is frequently used in jewelry as a less expensive alternative to fine silver. Its stainless finish makes the it easy to clean, requiring only lemon juice or a mild soap to remove any marks or tarnishing. Alpaca silver is popular with South American jewelry companies and is used to create beautiful, traditional and modern pieces.

Alpaca Silver (Alpaca) refers to an alloy  that imitates sterling silver This non-precious bright silvery-grey metal alloy is made up of copper, zinc and nickel and, sometimos, a small portion of iron.  Alpaca Silver does NOT contain real silver; it is just another name for German Silver.  In Mexico and South America the term used for this alloy is Alpaca Silver rather than Nickel Silver.   In 1823 there was a contest among German & Austrian metalwork companies to develop an alloy that most closely appeared similar to silver (visually - not chemically or physically) After the manufacturer, Berndorf AG, trademarked and made popular the brand name Alpaca, this term was used more frequently than the term, German Silver. The term for this alloy in Mexico, Central America, and South America is Alpaca Silver, rather than Nickel Silver.   Despite its name, Nickel Silver,  does not contain fine silver; and it is also commonly called German Silver or Alpaca Silver.

In 1840, a process called electroplating was developed, allowing a fine metal coating
to be plated onto metal and non-metal object,
which opened many new markets for nickel silver-plated goods.
Some items made from this alloy occasionally may be silverplated with pure silver.



shopping cart banner





Contact Us
Product information and Frequently Asked Questions
Home Page  |  Shopping Cart  |  My Account  |  Checkout  |  Shipping & Returns  |  Privacy Notice  |  Conditions of Use  |  Contact Us Artcamp 2010 All rights Reserved