Indeed, it called to me silently: four empty glass condiment containers that likely hadn’t seen table service since when? Probably since the late 1880’s. Curious as I was about it, I flipped the price tag over. $22 that’s more in my price range, and no, that doesn’t make me impractical, but I think in terms of what I feel an item should reflect price-wise.
I returned home to think about it. That roughly translates: “Don’t think about it too long.” Because it goes without saying if you see an item for a good price, then chances are someone else will swoop in and buy it out from under you. It’s happened a lot to me.
But it’s also within writing this that alas the pewter cruet set I purchased does contain lead. Does that shock me after the fact? Nope. I suspected such was the case.
Now before I go off on a ‘back in the day’… they didn’t know what we now understand about lead contamination and what nasty effects lead poisoning can do to the body.
From the pewter cleaning article I skimmed through it suggested mixing half a cup of flour, a teaspoon of salt and some vinegar, baking soda into a paste. Coat this paste on the pewter piece and gently polish it. Pewter won’t shine like silver or that of silverplate either. The end result is okay, but nothing fantastic. I think I’ll let the pewter age again and don’t plan to re-polish it. I have a habit of cleaning everything that first comes into my home since I don’t know where, how, or who cared for it before I purchased it.
So, the forlorn pewter cruet set sat there day after day in the antique store. The weeks rolled by and still no takers. I was looking for an antique cruet set within my budget (Good luck finding one of those for under $20 that isn’t “As-Is” with missing, cracked or taped together shattered glass bottles). I looked at several the shop had to offer and the more expensive silverplate cruets really didn’t appeal to me, surprisingly.
The antique store owner is exceptionally helpful and always willing to go out of their way to show me more antique cruet sets they have. I sincerely appreciate all their help.
And there’s ruby glass antique cruet sets. No, thanks. It’s not that I have anything against ruby glass, I just want something that’s not going to be one of those high dollar antiques that might be accident prone.
And what about those original glass condiment containers? What’s a person to do if one of those accidentally breaks? Hopefully, that won’t happen. But with all antiques anything can happen no matter how well cared for and loved. Replacements from other mismatched sets can be obtained.
And what about the glass containers? They might have lead or some other kind of heavy metal. Nowadays people tend to collect antique cruet sets for display purposes (I’m sure there are those that do use them). I don’t plan to use the cruet set simply due to its age, for one. And secondly, the fragility of the glass containers. Sure, the salt and pepper shakers are nice—actually the best condition I’ve seen thus far in all antique cruet sets I’ve run across.
So… I cleaned and polished. And now knowing that antique pewter does contain lead, I tossed all used dust rags into the trash. I don’t re-wash or re-use the dust rags that comes in contact with pewter or even silverplate.
How does a person know if an antique cruet set contains lead? Wash and polish it with a homemade flour paste with a little vinegar, salt, and baking soda. And when you dry it off and there’s more black residue on the rags and your hands, you’ll know there’s lead in the pewter.
The older the pewter the more black residue there will be. Also, this might help in dating a particular piece of pewter if you can’t find a maker’s mark. Mine has some of the mark missing. The words I made out K and CO, which might mean it is a Knickerbocker Silver company cruet set likely made sometime in the early/ late 1890’s. My first guess was early 1900’s, so perhaps I wasn’t too far off the mark.
Older pewter will darken with age and this is due to handling without white cotton gloves on, oxidization, and oils from our hands can be very unforgiving on pewter and other lead-created metals from the past. The lead was added into the pewter to give it some substance, but lead is also a soft metal and shouldn’t be exposed to extreme heat as it does melt. I once bought what I thought to be at the time, a copper tea kettle. I’m sure you’ve seen these turn up from time to time in antique stores. The ones I used to love [at the time] were the kind with the porcelain handles. However, ninety percent of the copper tea kettles I was finding where made in Portugal, Korea, etc. And most of them, if not all, were in poor to extremely unusable condition. I waited for quite some time to find one that appeared in fairly okay condition.
I also heard more cons about the old copper tea kettles than pros. Well, the one I wound up buying was made in Portugal. The inside looked clean, but I still sanitized it, and before I ever used it, I boiled some water in it and noticed small itty bitty shiny beads on the burner falling from the spout. As it turned out, the spout had been fused to the tea kettle with lead. Thankfully, I never drank from it and never bought another since then.
I never would trust anybody that tells me those copper tea kettles are safe to drink from. And I would steer clear of the true antique copper tea kettles since the metals used to make them would probably contain a mix of alloy, zinc, lead, copper, tin and a bunch of other nasties that would be a toxicity brew nowadays.
And what about that antique cruet set that I just bought? It’ll be a display piece only.
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