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 and follow their link for a glossary of British pewter
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 century.
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
Beading. A 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 Gadrooning.
Beaker. The 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. See
bulbous measure below.
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.
Bouge (or booge). The round wall
between the well and rim of a plate,
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
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 baluster
measures. A roughly "T"-shaped thumbpiece with each of the two side
projections resembling a leafed bud.
Bulbous. An adjective used
to describe a hollow-ware
form with a rounded body and usually associated with measures.
Camphene. A 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.
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.
Cartouche. A scroll-like label that may contain the
pewterer's name, place or city, Hard Metal, London, or other
words. See Pewter Marks.
Casting. Process 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.
Caster. A pierced-top container used to dispense salt,
sugar or sand.
Castor Holder or Cruet Stand. A frame mounted on a flat
base to hold small shaker-top bottles of salt, pepper, oil, vinegar,
Chairback. Name used to describe a thumb piece of flagons
in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Chalice. A stemmed cup used for ecclesiastical purposes.
Charger. A piece of sadware.
Chatter Marks. 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.
Communion token. A piece of pewter, coin like (often
round or rectangular), issued to those determined suitable to take
Corrosion. The 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 tankards.
Dish. A piece of sadware.
Dome lid. 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.
Double volute. Term used to describe a particular thumb
piece type frequently found on baluster
Drum-shape. An 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
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
E.P.B.M. Electroplated Britannia
Metal. Used to designate a piece of Britannia Metal that has
been silver plated.
Eruption. Oxidation (corrosion)
which has resulted in surface bubbles.
Fake. A piece made purposefully to deceive prospective
Fillet. A narrow, slightly raised band often used around
the body of a tankard,
for decoration and to strengthen the cylinder wall.
Finial. Various. The knop of a spoon; the terminal
end of a handle on a tankard,
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.
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.
Flatware. Name given for pewter
such as plates
to distinguish it from Hollow-ware.
A more modern term for sadware.
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 Beading.
Garnish. A set of sadware
for the table, usually a dozen of each size.
Gill. A 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.
Hallmarks. 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
Hammered booge. 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.
Haystack measure. 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.
Hollow-ware. Vessels (such as mugs, tankards,
made to hold liquids, as distinct from sadware.
Imperial Standard. 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.
Journeyman. A trained craftsman working for a master
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 tool.
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 mold.
Maker's mark. See
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".
Multi-reed. A descriptive term for a plate,
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.
O.E.W.S. Old 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
Standard in 1826.
Oxidation. One of the processes which contributes to
PCCA. Pewter 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.
Pewter Marks. See our separate page devoted to an
explanation of Pewter
Plate. A piece of sadware.
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 19th century.
Porringer. A 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 Designs.
Provenance. Attributions of maker, owner, or locality
Rattail. A tapering extension or thickening of a spoon
handle onto the underside of the bowl.
Reed. The molding, usually cast, around the edge of
sadware; multiple or single denoting period made.
Repousse. Relief decoration formed by hammering from the
Reproduction. A piece made to appear as an older form
with no intention to deceive the buyer as to age.
Sadware. Plates, dishes and
chargers. A more common term today is flatware.