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Metals (OPQ) - Encylopedia Of Antiques

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PAINTED TIN WARE: A method of decoration common in late 18th century and early 19th. See TOLE.

PAKTONG: Also called tutenag, crude or alloyed zinc. A silver-white Chinese alloy, imported into England between 1750 and 1800. It was then believed to be a rare metal, Chinese white copper, mined only in the East, but was later discovered to be in reality an alloy of copper, nickel and zinc. It was tarnish-resisting and was used for candlesticks and other metal objects.

PATEN: A small circular salver or plate employed for the wafers or bread in the eucharistic service. It is always of the same material as the chalice, often richly chased or engraved, and at first was the cover of the chalice. They were first made separately in England early in the 17th century. See TAZZA.

PATINA: Originally, the greenish surface film on copper-containing metals, formed in the course of time by oxidation. Today, the term has been enlarged to include the films formed similarly on other metals, and also the characteristic surface appearance of antique furniture.

PEG LAMP: A glass lamp with a projection at the bottom of the oil reservoir for insertion in a socket. First half of 19th century.

PEPPER BOXES: These were made in silver, first half of 18th century, and were used sometimes as a sugar sifter, also. They wete about four inches high and were round or octagonal in form with a perforated cover.

PETTICOAT LAMPS: So-called from their flaring shape. Made in metal and in glass.

PEWTER: Pewter, an alloy of tin with other metals, was in use by the ancients and by European countries for several centuries before it became a great industry, that had its golden age in the 16th and 17th centuries. Until silver came into common use on the tables of the rich, pewter held first place for church services and for household use. The ware was too expensive for common use, even far into the 16th century.

Old fine pewter consisted of 112 parts of tin and 26 parts of copper, or, in place of copper, brass. Another fine grade was 100 parts of tin, 4 parts of copper and 8 parts of antimony. Common pewter was 82 parts of tin and 18 parts antimony. "Ley" or "lay" metal was a cheap grade of pewter consisting of 80 per cent of tin and 20 per cent of lead. The cheapest, often known as black metal, was 60 per cent tin and 50 per cent lead. Copper, bismuth and antimony were used to harden pewter. Lead, when used, was to cheapen it.

Pewter, though it darkens and dulls easily, oxidizes but little. For trenchers, platters and the larger flat ware (sad ware), the metal was cast in flat pieces and rolled into sheets of the desired thickness and then hammered into shape. Hollow ware and practically all other pewter was cast in molds, in sections, soldered together, and finished with hand tools, or later, by the lathe. In the pewter days, all mugs, pitchers, basins and porringers were made to scale, and even pewter bottles of exact quarts and pints were made. Pewter, more strictly than other forms of metal, has been kept within the confines of household use. Pewter maintained its popularity until the work of the potters in the 18th century, with their more sanitary and more easily cleaned ware, caught the public taste and ultimately gave the coup-de-grace to an industry which had flourished so long.

In collecting pewter one may safely follow these general directions. Straight or slightly waved lines preceded swelling curves, flat unadorned lids came before domed tops with knobs and crests, few and simple moldings were the forerunners of many and elaborated ones.

In pewter containers the thumbpiece offers the most readily recognized mark of nationality.

American Pewter. Although Thomas Bmnstead is known to have been making pewter in Boston in 1654, pewter-making in America really had its beginning about 1700, and continued through the first half of the 19th century. (The earlieut known American piece is a plate by Simon Edgell (died 1742) of Philadelphia.) During this time, something over two hundred pewterers are known to have come and gone. Their names are preserved and their marks stamped upon much of their product. After 1820, crockery and Britannia ware began to displace pewter, and its manufacture gradually dwindled. Tankards, flagons and porringers, plates, basins and bowls were among their product, now much sought after by collectors. The eightinch plate is usual and is the foundation of American pewter collecting. Plates were seldom larger than 13 inches. Examples by some of the makers are exceedingly rare; and the covered tankard is among the greater rarities.

The "Betty" lamp in pewter is said to be the rarest of all pewter objects to be found today. Practically no embossing or chasing is found on early pieces.

The native quality of American pewter is said to be inferior to that of England. It becomes less mellowed by time and neglect, and is improved by cleaning. On the other hand, early American pewter has a solidity, a simplicity of form, a sincerity that is very fine, resembling in design English pewter of the Stuart times. The later pewter is lighter and in general follows the designs of the silversmiths.

Because of English laws with regard to marking pewter, there has been a tendency to regard all unmarked pewter in this country as American. Except for the whale-oil lamp, which was a distinctively American creation of the 19th century and unmarked, this rule does not apply. Unmarked pewter, in spite of the rules of the Pewterers' Society, has always been made in England and a good deal of it found its way to America, especially in the Colonial days, and one authority claims that the greater part of the pewter used in this country during the 18th century was imported from England. Pewter made here before 1750 was often unmarked, but since that time pewter plates were generally marked, but basins were not. Next to the plate, the basin was the most important article for household use. These ranged in size from 6.5 to 12 inches in diameter. Pewter plates and chargers can usually be dated by the style of their rims.

The methods of marking pewter have always been the same and during the last years of the 18th century, American pewterers generally began to use a "touch-mark" (q.v.). The "eagle" touch-mark dates from the last decade of the 18th century. The state seals of Massachusetts and Rhode Island were also used by some makers. Other makers invented "hall-marks" similar to those on English pewter of that time. To the collector, familiarity with the marks of the various makers will be needful, as he is generally a student of makers' touches to a degree that is in no sense true of the collector of the European metal. These can be found in detail in KERFOOT'S American Pewter, which is an extensive book on the subject. After 1825 the making of pewter in America rapidly ceased to be a handicraft and became an industry.

Continental Pewter. According to one authority (Cotterell) some of the most beautiful types of pewter known to collectors are to be found nowhere except in European ware. Many difficulties are to be encountered in making a collection of these because of the number of different countries where they were made, each with different rules and regulations and each with its own organization of pewterers with their various marks. From the beginning of the 17th century what is known as the "three-touch" system of marks has obtained. This consisted of (a) the town or city arms or other local device indicating place of origin; (b) maker's name, initials, touch or device; (c) quality marks-of these quality marks the most frequent is the "Angel," (q.v.) the use of which was strictly reserved for metal of the finest quality, and was adopted throughout most of the European countries. The "Rose and Crown" (q.v. ) was also used as a quality mark, sometimes as first, sometimes as slightly inferior.

Pewter forms and decoration varied in Continental pewter, but not in that of Great Britain, according to the influence of the successive periods from the Gothic to that of the Empire type.

There are various characteristics such as the thumbpieces, the handles, the handle finials, the lids, the bases,all of which are distinguishing features of the different countries of Europe and must be studied as a part of the subject. One thing, remembered, will help in identifying Continental pewter; it is not hand-hammered. As a rule, English pewter generally is.

English Pewter. Interest in collecting pewter in England began in 1904, following the issue of Pewter Plate by MASSE and an exhibition of pewter arranged by him in London in the same year. The art of the pewterer was practised in England as early as the 12th century, but it was not until after the Restoration that it, even among the rich, came into daily household use. In the 18th century, for the better part of a hundred years, all of England, more or less, ate off pewter, drank from it, and used it for half the adjuncts and utensils of ordinary living. The London guild, chartered in 1473 under Government authority, supervised the handicraft all over England. English pewter is hammer finished generally, while most American pewter is not, nor is Continental pewter; and English pewter may be allowed to accumulate a film of oxidation without losing its charm.

England stood alone in the high quality of her metal. Pewter "blended" in the English manner stood for excellence on the Continent. Again, England, with the Netherlands, stood alone against the decoration of pewter. Plates and chargers were made by the so-called "sadware" men, and the pots and vessels for liquids, by the "hollow ware" men.

English pewter marks are given in Old Pewter, Its Makers and Marks, by COTTERELL, and MRS. MOORE in her book Old Pewter gives many interesting details of the growth of that handicraft in England from early times, and of the many difficulties encountered by the "Company of Pewterers" in enforcing the many regulations surrounding the craft. The rules of the Scotch guild were much like those of England, and it is often difficult to find a difference between pieces of English and of Scotch make.

PEWTERERS: For a fairly reliable list of names of American pewterers, consult American Pewter by KERFOOT and Practical Book o f American Antiques by EBERLEIN arid McCLURE. English pewterers are listed in great detail and marks illustrated in the standard reference work, Old Pewter, Its Makers and Marks in England, Scotland and Ireland, H. H. COTTERELL.

PINCHBECK: An alloy of about five parts of copper and one of zinc, invented by Christopher Pinchbeck (1670-1732). It had the appearance of gold and was much used in England for buckles, sword hilts, chains, etc.

PINS: The lowly pin of today has its ancestry in ancient Greece and Rome, where they were made of bronze. Even the safety pin is by no means new.

PIPKIN: The name given the brass coal scuttle made for use after the introduction of coal in England, middle of the 18th century.

Pitchers These were usually known as jugs in England. Cream pitchers with pearshaped bodies, usually supported on three scroll feet, were made about the middle of the 18th century. Later ones were made with a base.

PLANISH: To condense, smooth and toughen a plate of metal by blows of a hammer.

PLATE: In England all silver articles have been since early times, and still are, designated as "plate." The term should not be confused with "plated" ware. In America, early silver is usually referred to as "silver," but since 1865 i t is marked and known as "sterling."

PLATES: Silver dinner plates made their appearance in England late in the 17th century and during the 18th century they were quite common there and came into use in this country. Pewter plates were common both in England and here throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, until pottery and porcelain ware gradually displaced both silver and pewter.


PORRINGERS: One of the most useful pieces of household ware in Colonial times. These were made of pewter or of silver by our earliest craftsmen of the 17th century, and continued in use until gradually displaced by pottery ware about the middle of the 18th century. They ranged in size from three to six inches in diameter of bowl, and a flat handle set nearly flush with the rim was placed on one or both sides of the bowl. The American porringer is usually larger and quite different (see BLEEDING DISHES) from those of England, where they were variously known as ear' dishes, bowls, bleeding dishes, possetcups and tasters.

POSSET CUP: Another name for caudle-cup (q.v.)used for drinking posset, curdled milk with spices and hot sack (wine). It was usually made with a cover to keep the contents warm. In England it was also called a porringer (q.v.).


POT HOOK: (also called POT HANGER) Attached to chimney cranes for suspending the cooking utensils. They rank among the earliest of domestic metal implements.


PRICKET: The pointed spike of a candlestick upon which the candle was forced when required for use. Its origin is earlier in date than the candlestick with socket, and it was commonly used in Europe in medieval times. It was not used in this country.

PRINCESS METAL: A composition of copper; brass and arsenic.

PUNCH BOWLS: In England in the 15th and 16th centuries the Mazer bowl (q.v.) was commonly used for a drinking vessel. Silver bowls for mixing punch first appeared after the Restoration, the Monteith bowl (q.v.) somewhat later, followed by bowls of porcelain and pottery.

QUAICH, QUAIGH: A shallow, circular Scotch drinking vessel, somewhat like a deep saucer and made in several sizes. The larger ones were used for porridge. The quaich was made of pewter, brass, silver, and of wood, usually quite plain and furnished with two solid ears by which to hold it. It is often confused with the porringer, which it resembles somewhat.