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What is Britannia Metal?

  • 2 min read


Britannia metal is an alloy which means it’s composed of more than one metal. The creation of alloys was one of the most important developments in metallurgy because it strengthened pure metals for use in forging early tools and weapons such as axes and wheels. Most modern Britannia metal is composed of a large percentage of tin and a small percentage of copper although there are many variations. Along with bronze, Britannia metal was one of the first alloys known to man. Britannia metal is considered a soft metal with a very low melting point, lending itself to detailed design work when made into jewelry.

Many metals that are often referred to by name as a pure element are, in reality, metal alloys. For example, the gold found in jewelry is almost never pure gold. Gold, like Britannia metal , is a soft metal and can be readily bent or twisted apart. Copper is the most common additive to gold: the term "karat" refers to the purity of gold in the alloy, with 18 karat gold being one-quarter copper. Most forms of aluminum encountered today are, in fact, aluminum alloys. Many of the alloys referred to with the blanket term "titanium steel" or simply "titanium" are really alloys of titanium, aluminum and vanadium.

Metal Casting in the Shop at Oberon Design

Employed for use in jewelry making, etchings, hand engravings, cutlery, and dinnerware, Britannia metal has been found in Egypt and carbon dated to 1500 B.C.E. Pewter was also known in ancient China, Greece and Rome, and was a common metal choice during the Middle Ages (5th-15th centuries) developing with use in Europe in the 11th century and in the 17-1800’s in the American colonies. It’s very evident that pewter design has experienced resurgence in the 20th century and is currently enjoying a new phase in popularity especially as the price of gold and silver accelerates.

Here at Oberon we love the extreme versatility of Britannia metal. We use it throughout our product line, from our jewelry and hair accessory creations to the buttons on our journals and the attachments on our handbags.  

Work Table in the Casting Shop at Oberon Design