Britannia metal

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Not to be confused with Britannia silver.
Teapot, Britannia metal

Britannia metal (also called britannium or Britannia ware[1]) is a pewter-type alloy favoured for its silvery appearance and smooth surface. The composition is approximately and typically 92% tin, 6% antimony, and 2% copper.[2] It should be distinguished from Britannia silver, a high-grade alloy of silver.

Britannia is a specific type of pewter branded for marketing purposes. It is typically spun rather than cast.,[1] and melts at 255 degrees Celsius.[3]

Britannia metal was first produced[4] in 1769 or 1770; it was created by James Vickers after purchasing the formula from a dying friend. It was originally known as "Vickers White Metal" when made under contract by the Sheffield manufacturers Ebenezer Hancock and Richard Jessop. In 1776 James Vickers took over the manufacturing himself and remained as owner until his death in 1809, when the company passed to his son, John, and Son-in-Law, Elijah West. In 1836 the company was sold to John Vickers's nephew Ebenezer Stacey (the son of Hannah Vickers and John Stacey).

After the development of electroplating with silver in 1846, Britannia metal was widely used as the base metal for silver-plated household goods and cutlery.[5] The abbreviation EPBM on such items denotes "electroplated Britannia metal". Britannia metal was generally used as a cheaper alternative to electroplated nickel silver (EPNS) which is more durable.

Some authorities and collectors think this "white metal" sometimes formed a base for early experimentations in mercury and tin or latten metal plating in the 18th and early 19th centuries.[citation needed]. One notable use of britannium is to make the Oscar statuettes handed out each year at the Academy Awards. The 8½-pound statuettes are Britannia metal plated with gold.[6]

In his essay, A Nice Cup of Tea, writer George Orwell asserts that "britanniaware" teapots "produce inferior tea" (when compared to Chinaware).[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Britannia Ware English". 
  2. ^ "Britannia metal". 
  3. ^ Composition and Physical Properties of Alloys, Oliver Seely, August 18, 2007
  4. ^ The New Encyclopædia Britannica, Micropædia (2002, 15th edition)
  5. ^ Krupp, Alfred; Andreas Wildberger (1888). The metallic alloys: A practical guide for the manufacture of all kinds of alloys, amalgams, and solders, used by metal-workers ... with an appendix on the coloring of alloys and the recovery of waste metals. H.C. Baird & Co. 
  6. ^ The Oscar Statuette
  7. ^ [1]