Is Pewter Safe?
What is pewter?
Pewter is a metal alloy mostly made from tin, with the remainder usually a mixture of copper, antimony, bismuth, and (sometimes) silver.
Tin is an amazing metal in lots of ways, and is the fourth most expensive precious metal in common use after platinum, gold, and silver. It can be worked in a lot of ways and you can get a variety of really attractive finishes, so it's no surprise that it's often used for jewelry. But the trouble is that it’s quite soft in its pure form and wouldn’t make a great cup. That’s where pewter comes in. Mix small amounts of copper and antimony into the tin and it gets much stronger and more durable, and becomes a very practical material for drinkware and all manner of pewter gifts.
Is pewter safe?
Modern pewter is safe. Don’t just take our word for it. The FDA has regulations for ‘food contact surfaces’ (and seemingly everything else) and has no health concerns relating to modern pewter. The FDA is ok with pewter containing less than 0.05% lead (our pewter is lead-free).
Let’s look at the three metals that go into pewter individually. After all, treat your pewter tankard properly and it will last for many many years, but in the unlikely event that it did dissolve into your beer in large enough quantities (it won’t), it’s the tin, copper, and antimony that you would swallow with your beer.
Tin. Tin has been used for food and drink containers for centuries. Since 1812 it has been used to coat the inside of steel cans for food storage (there are often other coatings used nowadays), and that’s because tin has to be in contact with food for a LONG time before the food becomes dangerous. Unless you leave your beer in your tankard for a few weeks before drinking it you shouldn’t have any trouble (and the beer will taste bad by then anyway whatever cup it’s in). In addition, tin has no known role in the bodies of humans or animals, and isn’t easily absorbed.
Copper. Your body needs copper – it’s one of over 20 dietary minerals necessary to human life. The human body is also capable of getting rid of moderate excess copper, when necessary.
However, the main point to make about copper is that your beer (almost certainly) came into contact with a lot more copper during the brewing process than it will in your tankard.
Antimony. Antimony is not harmful as a metal, and is resistant to attack by acids. It’s not great to inhale (few metals are), but we don’t recommend you do that anyway.
Note that antique pewter or, occasionally cheaper eastern pewter, may contain lead. This tends to discolor over time to a grey-blue color. Over time drinking a beverage from a tankard made of leaded pewter or lower grades of pewter can be very bad for your health, and we agree with the FDA that this is a bad idea. All of our pewter is completely lead-free.
Also, for the avoidance of doubt, like most metals pewter is NOT safe in microwave ovens (there is a risk of fire). We recommend drinking cold drinks only from our cups, because pewter conducts heat and burnt lips hurt.
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