Pewter was more generally used than silver or brass in American households from Colonial days until about 1850. Yet enthusiastic collectors, who became legion during the 1950's, consider pieces made between 1810 and 1860 excellent finds. At that, there are hardly enough to go around and many collectors are satisfied with European-made pewter.
In Europe and England, pewter had been made for centuries when America was being settled. Yet here pewter became more popular than in any other country. American housewives evidently liked it and used it whether or not they could afford silver.
Pewter is duller, darker, and softer than silver. When new or after polishing, pewter has its own special luster. Unlike silver, which is a precious metal, pewter is an alloy made of several metals. Tin is the chief constituent, and other ingredients may be copper, bismuth, antimony, and lead in varying proportions.
Because pewter is so much softer than silver and brass, it can be bent, dented, and scratched easily. It also corrodes and develops tiny pockmarks. It melts if it is placed directly over heat. One reason early pieces are so scarce is that worn and badly scarred pewter was melted down and gleaming new things made from the old.