Clergymen offered communion from his pewter chalices. Housewives served stew in his containers, and taverns sold beer in his tankards.
Few early-17th century pieces could even be found until excavations in Jamestown, Va., produced a pewter spoon that as signed with the name Joseph Copeland. Copeland worked in Jamestown and Chuckatuck from 1675-91. His spoon is now on display in The Jamestown Museum.
Early settlers were mobile and carried few possessions. They only purchased what they could not make themselves, like tools and pewter. Even then, they bought the simplest, most essential pieces like plates, bowls, spoons and drinking containers.
Traveling, the open fireside, and regular use damaged the pewter, and the need for skilled artisans to fabricate more became a necessity.
There was one difficulty in producing pewter. America lacked tin, the most important ore in the pewter trade, and export from the tin mines in England to the colonies was forbidden.
The first American pewter smithâ€™s used damaged pewter objects instead, and melted them down for recasting. Thatâ€™s how most of the early Colonial pewter disappeared.
Tin ore was easier to get hold of after the revolution, but by then people were buying glassware and pottery.
Pewter was called the â€œthe poor manâ€™s silverâ€ prior to the 19th century, but was actually a prestige item among those who could afford it.
With the introduction of electroplating in the 19th century, the demand for silver-plated wares increased, and pewter all but vanished. Not until the 20th century did the significance of pewter revive.
These daysâ€™ people appreciate the primitive look of pewter, and typically have a few pieces to accent their country collection.
Whatâ€™s accessible on the markets and auctions are the late-19th century pewter examples that were silver-plated over pewter, but later stripped of their plating.
â€œThe pewter market hasnâ€™t changed much in the last few years. Thereâ€™s a lot of pewter out there, and itâ€™s the rare pieces like the big Lighthouse teapots, and the signed porringers people want.â€
Some of the most well-liked pewter items today are the eye-catching pieces that look great on a shelf such as tankards, teapots, and pitchers. Like other antiques, condition is an significant part in evaluating pewter. Sometimes youâ€™ll see scratches, dents, a new handle, or a different lid; all of which affect value.