Britannia metal

A lead-free pewter-like alloy introduced around 1770, employed in the U.K., principally in the 19th and 20th centuries, for the production of small articles.



Hardening for Britannia. (To be mixed separately from the other ingredients.)— Copper, 2 lbs.; tin, 1 lb.

Good Britannia Metal.- Tin, 150 lbs.; copper, 3 lbs.; antimony, 10 lbs.

Britannia Metal, 2nd quality.—Tin, 140 lbs.; copper, 3 lbs.; antimony, 9 lbs.

Britannia Metal, for Casting. —Tin, 210 lbs.; copper, 4 lbs.; antimony, 12 lbs.

Britannia Metal, for Spinning.—Tin, 100 lbs.; Britannia hardening, 4 lbs.; antimony, 4 lbs.

Britannia Metal, for Registers.—Tin, 100 lbs.; hardening, 8 lbs.; antimony, 8 lbs.

Best Britannia, for Spouts.—Tin, 140 lbs.; copper, 3 lbs.; antimony, 6 lbs.

Best Britannia, for Spoons.—Tin, 100 lbs.; hardening, 5 lbs.; antimony, 10 1bs.

Best Britannia, for Handles.—Tin, 140 lbs. ; copper, 2 loo.; antimony, 5 lbs.

Best Britannia, for Lamps, Pillars, and Spouts.—Tin, 300 lbs.; copper, 4 lbs.; antimony, 15 lbs.

Britannia, for Casting.—Tin, 100 lbs.; hardening, 5 lbs.; antimony, 5 lbs.

Ernest Spon.
Workshop Receipts for the Use of Manufacturers, Mechanics, and Scientific Amateurs. First Series.
London: E. & F. N. Spon, [1873]
Pages 10 and 11. Exactly this material appeared earlier in a compilation by I. R. Butts, The Merchant's and Mechanic's Assistant (1856), page 231. Very likely there is an even earlier source.


Britannia metal, the kind of pewter of which English tea-pots are made, is said to be an alloy of equal parts of brass, tin, antimony, and bismuth; but the proportions differ in different workshops, and much more tin is commonly introduced.

Andrew Ure, M.D.
A Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures and Mines...
London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green and Longmans, 1839.
Page 967.


The general disuse of the old pewter ware, once so common in this country, has been followed by the introduction of another metal, in the manufacture of which a degree of ingenuity is constantly displayed, to which the ancient pewterers were altogether strangers. The modern material, the base of which is tin, has been called Prince's metal, more commonly Britannia metal, and by the workmen white metal. It is not only wrought into all the variety of elegant and useful articles to which silver is applied, but, along with its capability of receiving almost every modification of which that precious metal is susceptible, it also very much resembles it in colour and brilliancy. It possesses also, when quite new, and in some articles of a fine quality, candlesticks in particular, an effect which an inexperienced eye might easily, before the metal became common, have mistaken for silver. The beauty of this metal, when wrought into a variety of articles, is not more striking than its cheapness in the manufactured state is surprising. This latter circumstance results, independently of the price of the material itself, from the extensive application of machinery, and the extreme lightness of body with which wares in Britannia metal can be produced; a lightness, however, which is always obtained at the expense of durability, as well as of shape. A quart tea-pot, for example, of a most elegant pattern, mounted on four balls, and flourished with engraving, may be bought in the shops for so trifling a sum as three or four shillings; and hence, nothing is so common in an ordinary tea-table display, among even the middle classes, as an utensil of this description: and almost as common is it, in those cases where cheapness has supervened, to find the article sadly bulged and warped from its original symmetry; an effect which the hot water therein used, along with the constant lifting and placing the pot upon the table, unitedly produce in a very short time, when it is of such a flimsy make.

Dionysius Lardner, editor.
A Treatise on the Progressive Improvement and Present State of the Manufactures in Metal vol. 3.
London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longman, and John Taylor, 1834.
Pages 102-103.

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