What is Pewter..?
Pewter is a ductile metal alloy comprising mostly of tin, the fourth most expensive precious metal behind platinum, gold and silver. Mixing the tin with traces of copper and antimony makes the eventual alloy malleable yet harder than tin alone, with a low enough melting point to be easily cast; the resultant pewter is a soft, subtle silver-coloured metal, which can be shaped easily and crafted into objects of beauty. A ‘green’ metal, pewter is inert and completely recyclable. If you would like to read more about the history of pewter, please click here.
Below is a brief summary of the three components in Cosi Tabellini pewter:
Tin is naturally occurring as tinstone or cassiterite (named after the term “Cassiterides” or “Tin Islands”, an ancient geographical name for islands somewhere off the west coast of Europe, which many believe refer to the British Isles, and Cornwall in particular) which is found mixed in with other underground minerals.
Tin ore occurs in extraordinarily low concentrations; compared to iron, where for example, one ton of iron ore yields 400 kg of iron, tin ore produces only 4-10 kg of tin from the same amount of natural ore. The procedures needed to separate the tinstone from the other minerals are also extremely difficult, such rolling, washing, heating, rewashing, hence this explains why tin is such a valuable metal.
Tin is sought after for many different uses as it is an extremely malleable metal, however if it is placed under too great pressure it can easily be broken, emitting a distinctive ‘screaming’ or ‘crackling’ sound, universally known as ‘the tin cry’.
Tin resists corrosion and is used as a protective coating on other metals. It is also an optimum heat conductor and this quality makes it suitable for use in the production of dishwarmers and ice-cream moulds.
Archaeological evidence suggests that tin extraction and use dates to the beginnings of the Bronze Age (bronze being an alloy of tin and copper) about 5,500 years ago, where it was extracted by roasting cassiterite in a furnace with carbon. It is believed one of the reasons why the Romans invaded Britain was to access its significant tin resources in Devon and Cornwall.
Cassiterite, a silvery-white metal, is found in hydrothermal veins and pegmatites (igneous rocks) associated with granite intrusions, and sometimes found concentrated in alluvial placer deposits.
Cassiterite from Wherry Mine, Penzance, Cornwall
Copper was one of the first metals to be worked into implements 11,000 years ago, although it was too soft for most uses, and it wasn’t until about 5,500 years ago that people realised it could be strengthened with other metals to form the harder bronze, and later still, brass; with the Romans being among the first to make widespread use of brass for coinage and ornamental objects.
Much of the copper sourced by the Romans came from the island of Cyprus; the origin of the name of the metal – “cuprum” – is derived from the Latin aes cyprium, meaning ‘metal of Cyprus’, although copper ore deposits are found extensively across the globe, including Great Britain, particularly Cornwall, Devon, Anglesey and the Lake District.
Copper is a vital component of pewter, and increases the strength and hardness of the alloy, and just like tin, is corrosion resistant.
Copper is one of few metallic elements to be found in its native form, but is primarily obtained from ores such as cuprite, tenorite, malachite, bornite and chalcocite.
Native Copper from Relistin Mine, Gwinnear, Cornwall
The name antimony is believed to derive from the Greek words anti and monos, which together approximately mean “opposed to solitude”, explained as “not found unalloyed”. The historic Latin name for antimony is stibium.
Antimony is a tin-white metal with a pale blue tint, too brittle to be used alone in its pure form, but is an excellent alloying material, hardening and strengthening soft metals such as tin, and together with copper, makes a type of pewter useful for tableware and drinkware.
Whilst antimony can be found as a native element in its natural state, it is mainly derived from its primary ores: stibnite and valentinite, which are mined across the world, especially China, Peru and the USA, although it was mined in Scotland in previous decades.
Antimony compounds have been used for thousands of years, as far back as ancient Egypt, where it was used in cosmetics, such as iconically Egyptian black eye make-up. Antimony was used by the Romans in the making of antimony-rich glass, with antimony used as a decolouriser added to sand to create a colourless glass in the furnace.
Stibnite from Knipes Mine, Ayrshire, Scotland
Does Cosi Tabellini pewter have lead in it?
No, every toxic element has been completely eliminated from modern alloys and the European Union has dictated strict regulations regarding its composition.
The alloy which we use today for all our pewter objects meets all the European Union and USA requirements provided for food and drink safety. It is made up of Tin (95%), Antimony (4-5%) and Copper (0.5%), and is prepared internally according to our own safe specification.
All Cosi Tabellini pewter is cast and therefore feels more solid and heavier than pewter formed from pewter sheets, giving the items a reassuringly weighty feel about them, which assures quality and longevity.
NON-PEWTER MATERIALS AND COMPONENTS
By evolving design and employing intricate processes, Cosi Tabellini have combined this versatile metal, pewter, with other locally produced and highly regarded materials, such as Brescian stainless steel, Italian ceramics and crystal glass, as well as European cherrywood, to create contemporary versions of timeless designs.
Below is a brief overview of non-pewter materials and components used in Cosi Tabellini products:
Cosi Tabellini uses high quality and high clarity European glass for those who love the marriage of softly hued pewter with the simple clarity and shine of crystal and glass. Cosi Tabellini uses high performance lead-free crystal glass which is mouth blown. In modern history, the potential health hazards caused by lead have led to the development of the "lead-free crystal". It has a refractive index similar to lead crystal, but is lighter.
All Cosi Tabellini ceramic is produced in Italy with our exclusive designs. The “Convivio” range is the result of an evolution in design, culminating in the clever merging of materials into a single product, utilising the natural characteristics of both pewter and ceramic; the execution of which is much more complicated than the elegant simplicity of the design concept.
Cosi Tabellini uses only Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood in its products. The majority of wood we use is European cherrywood, which has been used for making furniture since time immemorial, owing to its warm beautiful tones, giving it a natural elegance, as well as being naturally sanitary; perfect then for alimentary use. We also use Wenge Wood for our Milano bathroom range.
Most of our cutlery, letter and bottle openers have stainless steel blades or components, all of which is made in our home city of Brescia, Italy. The pewter handles of cutlery and openers are made using a special technique: the molten pewter is directly cast onto the steel tips of the cutlery and openers; this process forms what is really a single element in which the "hardness" of the steel discreetly dissolves into the "soft" surface of the pewter handle, more suitable for contact with the hands - a truly ergonomic design.
Cosi Tabellini paraffin lamps use "Kosmos" (patented in 1865 by the German company Wild & Wessel in the UK) burners made in France by a century-old specialist manufacturer using a solid brass alloy and are considered to be the finest burners made.
Cosi Tabellini uses German clock movements, renowned for their excellence, in their clocks, all of which are tested prior to assembly. The majority of our clocks use LR1 batteries.