Britannia Metal. A silver-white alloy of tin, antimony and copper, and often of zinc and bismuth. Largely used for tableware, but medallic items were struck in this alloy, obviously in Great Britain where a large whitesmith industry existed and the alloy was easily available. Britannia metal – often called just “britannia” (the word is not capitalized) – resembles pewter, but was cheaper, stronger and more silvery in color (and it contained no lead as pewter often does); it was frequently the base metal for electroplated objects, predominantly silver (it would bleed gray-white).English britannia metal had a range of compositions: 85- 90 tin, 5-10 antimony, 1-3 copper, 0-3 zinc, 0-2 bismuth. As with all white metal alloys it is impossible to distinguish it from other white metal alloys by inspection alone. In cataloging such a piece it would more apt to be described as white metal than britannia metal (or an inexperienced cataloger might even call it tin). See white metal, composition (2).
excerpted with permission from
For Artists, Makers, Collectors and Curators
COMPILED AND WRITTEN BY D. WAYNE JOHNSON
Roger W. Burdette, Editor