Pewter jewelry has gained in popularity as the price of silver jewelry has gone up. They do have a slightly similar look at first glance.
Pewter is mostly tin, a soft metal. It is alloyed in jewelry making and other uses with antimony or bismuth, hard and brittle metals. Earlier pewter making used lead as one of the alloys, but thankfully this practice is becoming rare, at least in the USA.
In earlier times pewter utensils were what people ate with. Plates and mugs in the Middle Ages all the way up to the 18th and 19th centuries were primarily pewter, before porcelain came into its own. I imagine this early pewter was full of lead- but I have not heard much about difficulties due to that.
Was pewter jewelry made in earlier times? I believe it was, but due to the softness of the metal, and the ease with which it could be melted and put to other uses, not as much of it has survived. It's possible the Celtic people made their famous knot designs in pewter.
But what about modern Pewter jewelry, and what would be its advantages over silver? Well, here are a few:
o It is less cost than sterling silver
o It has less likelihood of tarnishing (especially the pewter which is cast lead free)
o It has a warm, hand crafted look
These are all good reasons. I would add to that fact that pewter can be every bit as detailed as the finest silver jewelry, and when properly cast and finished, is almost indistinguishable from it. That is, unless you take a really good look. But if you're just going for the general silvery look, and you are not a jewelry snob, why not own and wear some pewter jewelry too?
Some people may have a difficult time getting over the upset recently broadcast via newspaper and internet over the pewter containing a high lead content that was shipped to us by suppliers in China. I agree that is something to pay attention to when purchasing pewter jewelry. You must make sure the pewter comes from a reputable source and was cast lead free. Such jewelry is available, and I would venture to guess that most jewelers dealing with pewter jewelry are very careful about the lead content these days. Children especially are vulnerable, since they tend to stick things in their mouths without thinking.
But despite the fact that pewter jewelry has a questionable reputation in some circles, it seems to have mostly bounced back in popularity. I'm glad, because not every one can afford sterling silver jewelry, and this can be a wonderful substitute for many of us.