What is Pewter Thread?

Silver or Tin?

Actually, it's both and it's also neither. 

First lets look at alloys. An alloy is a metal that is made by combining two or more metals together. This is typically done to increase strength, lessen corrosion, or increase the beauty of the metal. Pewter is one of these alloys. 

The alloy Pewter has been made in a number of ways with a number of metal combinations, but always, Tin is the primary metal. Pewter can be Tin and Copper, Tin and Lead, Tin and Bismuth, Tin and  Antimony or finally, Tin and Silver.

Now, with all that being said, Tin has never been considered a precious metal and normally invokes images such as a tin roof or tin cans. It's not a particularly romanticized vision, but it is certainly used in these things in addition to other metals creating alloys appropriate for the job. Even though it doesn't have the distinction of being a precious metal, it's value is high and can approach and sometimes equal the price of Silver.

Now let's look at Nomadic Artistry's Pewter thread. It is imported from Northern Sweden and is made with Tin and Silver. The Silver content is very high at 10% and is LEAD FREE AND NICKLE FREE. Nomadic Artistry chooses to use this higher valued Pewter because of the impact it has directly on the art of Sámi jewelry making. It is brighter, the patina is deeper, the wear pattern with age is more impressive and the durability is increased so much so that you would never go back to a lesser silver content. 

So, your Nomadic Artistry piece is neither a Tin bracelet nor a Silver bracelet, but it is both a Tin and Silver bracelet. Pewter. A fabulous alloy.


Spun pewter thread used for traditional and contemporary Sámi Handicraft.
Spun pewter thread used for traditional and contemporary Sámi Handicraft.

Brief History of Pewter Bracelets

A Brief Telling About a Rich History

Imagine yourself in the beautiful and often times, harsh lands of Northern Scandinavia. There you will find one of the oldest living cultures in the world. The original indigenous people of the land, Sámi, are rich in history and steeped in tradition; first written about in 98 AD.

Pewter handicraft and weaving of bands involve a mixture of native and borrowed techniques dating back many centuries. The material for braiding the thread is borrowed, while the specific patterns and colors are native. However, pewter thread is a Sámi technique, developed and perfected over time and kept alive through perseverance and love. 

Sámi pewter thread production goes back to a time when the thread was made by the seamstress herself. Pewter items were melted and poured into thin grooves carved in wood. These became small pewter bars that were then "dragged" through a specially prepared antler piece with holes of up to 60 different sizes. The pewter was dragged or pulled through the holes until a fine thread was produced. It was then spun by means of a distaff around a core.

It is meticulous work and having participated in this very process myself, I am stand steadfast in tradition and honoring heritage and culture.

Reindeer in Northern Sweden. It was time for shedding velvet.
Reindeer in Northern Sweden. It was time for shedding velvet.

Sámi Handicrafts: A Sampling of What it Encompasses

The Traditional Art of the Sámi

It's important to know a splash of information about where and when the Sámi come from before you can fathom the beauty of their handicrafts. So, let's dive into a short explanation.

The Sámi homeland stretches across northern Scandinavia and eastward into the Kola Peninsula in Russia. It is a culture that is ancient and deep rooted in the region; where humans had settled for millennia. They arrived on coastal Norway around 9000 BC, but took over a millennium, until about 7900 BC, for them to settle in Finnish Lapland, the Kola Peninsula by 7300 BC and Northern Sweden took until 7000 BC by those arriving from Norway. 

With this kind of history, it is no wonder that a culture could provide such beauty in their everyday item, tools and household crafts. 

Historically, some Sámi settlements had stronger duodji than others and as a result, they have had a more prominent role in developing new styles than others. Like with any art, skill, or passion, time changes and a beautiful evolution takes place and continues over every generation. The Sámi traditions are no different.

The native handicrafts are based on bone, antler, wood, birch bark, and leather. Borrowed handicrafts consist of silver, drinking vessels, spoons and smith work. As a result, there is a beautiful marriage between old and new. Pewter thread, as we have already briefly discussed, wooden containers for long lasting vessels such as scoops and bowls, and reindeer skins (both with hair and without) used for boots, mats, both summer and winter clothing. Reindeer antler and bone are traditional materials and have a great importance in the creation of the hard handicrafts. 

The round shape is an omnipresent characteristic in Sámi design. The bowls and scoops as well as the bags had soft round shapes that contributed to the overall beauty and functionality of the handicrafts. Decorated and adorned with patterns that were used in moderation, pushed the beauty of their culture to the next level. 

Guksi, for example, is the Sámi coffee cup or scoop to drink from. It had great function and each person had his or her own guksi that hung from their belt or was in their back pack. In addition to its practical nature, it was meant to be beautiful. The bottoms and edges were often decorated with a beautiful pattern and the handle might have an antler inlay.

This same holds true for most handicrafts such as the hilt and sheath of a knife, a traveling chest, the baby's cradle, and drum head and hammers. Even the Sámi cheese forms were made to be functional and beautiful to look at. Bags, pouches, backpacks, woven bands and root baskets; every item was made with the heart and the intention that it must do its job well.

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My own handcrafted reindeer thimbles used for creating Sámi Handicrafts.
My own handcrafted reindeer thimbles used for creating Sámi Handicrafts.