Last month, I wrote a post called “Traveling Companions,” detailing a pewter pitcher and sugar bowl I’d found. You might remember I’d bought a pitcher and blown off the matching sugar bowl, but had a change of heart after I realized the importance of the set.
But there’s more to the story.
When I had gone back for the sugar bowl, it was sitting on a wonky, banged-up pewter plate. I knew darn well this wasn’t a set, but they were being sold as a pair for $20 and I really wanted that sugar bowl, so I bought this silvery odd couple, figuring I could quickly ditch the plate.
So what to do with one old plate, pockmarked and unshiny? I couldn’t eat off it: Pewter is a mix of a tin, copper and antimony (a silvery, hard, chemical), but used to be made using dangerous lead. I knew I shouldn’t polish it, as old pewter turns a dark gray, an effect called a patina, that collectors like. I researched it, but nothing was adding up right. It didn’t have any hallmarks, and at 7 inches, is smaller than most vintage pewter plates. I was stumped.
After quite a bit of online noodling, I found a cool chart on the Pewter Society’s website, and suddenly I had my answers.
The plate is English pewter, which is commonly not marked. It has a raised area where there once was an owner’s mark, again, a common trait. This type of early pewter is called sadware, which refers to a plate, charger or saucer. “If you look on the back of the bouge you will normally see rows of small hammer marks. This hammering was done to strengthen the metal here.”
I flipped the plate over. Hammer marks. I looked at the style of the rim, then the chart, and back again. Holy crap, this plate is 300 years old, made around 1730. It’s uneven because it was hand made by some guy going tap, tap, tap.
Now I know what to do with my plate. I run my fingers across it. I connect with a long-gone pewterer, a disappeared place and vanished bread. There is nothing like the electrifying sensation of touching the past.
This is why I love vintage.