Pewter is a metal alloy, traditionally between 85 and 99 percent tin, with the remainder consisting of 1-4 percent copper, acting as a hardener, with the addition of lead for the lower grades of pewter and a bluish tint. Traditionally, there were three grades of pewter: fine, for eatingware, with 96-99 percent tin, and 1-4 percent copper; trifle, also for eating and drinking utensils but duller in appearance, with 92 percent tin, 1-6 percent copper, and up to 4 percent lead; and lay or ley metal, not for eating or drinking utensils, which could contain up to 15 percent lead. Modern pewter mixes the tin with copper, antimony, and/or bismuth as opposed to lead.
Physically, pewter is a bright, shiny metal that is very similar in appearance to silver. Like silver, pewter will also oxidize to a dull gray over time if left untreated. Pewter is a very malleable alloy, being soft enough to carve with hand tools, and it also takes good impressions from punches or presses. Because of this inherent softness and malleability, however, pewter cannot be used to make tools itself. Some types of pewter pieces, such as candlesticks, would be turned on a metal lathe. Pieces produced through this technique are sometimes referred to as "holloware." Pewter has a low melting point of around 225-240°C (437-464°F) depending on the exact mixture of metals. Duplication by casting will give excellent results.