Pewter vs Brushed Nickel: The 6 Differences You Need to Know

If you are designing the internal decor for a brand new home or renovation, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed at just how many choices you have when picking the right bathroom and kitchen hardware.

You need to consider things like faucets, handles, and bathroom accessories. And there are so many finishes available, brushed, antique, polished. It’s hard to know which one will suit your decor the best. 

So today, we’ll help you make a bit more sense of it all by taking an in-depth look at the differences between two of the most popular metal choices for modern home decor, pewter and brushed nickel.

The main difference between Pewter and Brushed Nicked is in their visual appearance. 

Pewter has a more traditional ‘metal’ look, striking and bright finish similar to silver, but is usually a little bit less shiny (which incidentally helps a lot with watermarks and smudges). It also has a bit more of a darker grey hue to it.

Comparatively, brushed nickel has a much more matte finish and is far more subdued. It also has a slightly golden hue, giving it a warm and contemporary look. The brushed finish also gives it a good amount of practice smudge resistance, as matte finishes hide things like watermarks very easily, making it ideal for things like kitchen faucets.

What is pewter?

The main reason for pewter’s rise in popularity in home decor is that it allowed people to achieve that wonderful, shiny silver-styled look without the extreme cost of pure silver hardware.

So usually, a piece of hardware is made from a cheaper internal material such as brass or stainless steel. Then a pewter alloy is electroplated onto the surface, giving it the look of solid pewter. 

Some people worry about whether this plating might chip or damage over time. Still, the electroplating process is very refined these days, and these finishes are highly durable – don’t expect them to wear down quickly.

Appearance-wise, it has many of the qualities of silver. While it is bright and metallic, that high tin content also makes it a bit more muted and matte by comparison.

It’s a great alternative to something like a traditional polished chrome/stainless steel. But over time, it may require a little upkeep with a pewter pad to keep that finish looking pristine.

What is brushed nickel?

Much like pewter, when we talk about brushed nickel in kitchen hardware, it’s essentially a nickel finish that has been plated onto the kitchen faucet and then brushed’ in one direction with a light abrasive to give it that signature matte appearance.

Not only does this give it that wonderfully warm, contemporary look, but it also gives it several properties that make cleaning and maintenance easier and give it a good amount of water and smudge resistance.

Like pewter, brushed nickel is widely available and a fantastic alternative-looking finish to consider for your home decor.

What are the differences between pewter and brushed nickel?

While ultimately, we believe your final purchasing decision should be primarily based on aesthetics. There are several key differences between them when it comes to maintenance and wear that you should be informed of before you make a final choice. 

1. The look

Even though pewter and nickel in their raw forms already have some aesthetic differences, when dealing with a brushed nickel finish which is an even more stylized look, it’s essential to be aware of their visual differences to pick the right one for you.

Pewter is a tin alloy that can contain varying amounts of tin, lead, and sometimes copper – this gives the appearance of something similar to silver. Still, it’s slightly darker, muted, and less metallic. 

It’s one of the best alternatives to the other more common hardware finishes, such as polished chrome and steel.

Nickel, on the other hand, has two distinct features. Firstly, it has a slight golden hue. While not anywhere near as vibrant (or flashy) as gold, it’s much more warm and mellow, which some describe as having a champagne look.

In addition, it also has a high-quality brushed finish which mutes everything down and gives it a much more contemporary look. Ideal for most modern styles of decor.

2. Living metals

Pewter is what some call a ‘living finish.’ That is to say, it’s a reactive metal that can change in visual look over time due to contact with certain environmental elements.

A simple example is when something acidic like lemon juice contacts the pewter, it will change the patina. Changing the finish and developing it over time is a hugely appealing factor to many people.

You may need to repolish it every once in a while to restore its shiny finish. Alternatively, you can also get pewter sealed with a lacquer that protects it from outside environmental factors and makes it much more stable.

While brushed nickel is also considered a living metal because it has a brushed matte finish, the way it evolves is quite different from pewter. Likewise, if you wish to restore the finish, you will need to use a light abrasive nickel pad to retain that brushed nickel finish instead of polishing.

3. Smudge and water resistance

As both of these are considered living metals, over time, they will develop water marks and smudges, which at first may look endearing, but sometimes it gets too much, and people want to clean them off a bit.

For pewter, you can remove smudge and watermarks with a simple flannel cloth by polishing, or if it’s very bad, you can even use a super light grade steel wool such as 0000 to very gently repolish it.

Brushed nickel differs from this as we want to maintain the brushed finish – so regular polishing is not ideal as we need to retain the roughness of the finish. So in this scenario, we can use a diluted vinegar solution to wipe away the spots and smudges lightly, so it has that signature matte look.

4. Durability

Nickel is a tough and durable metal. People often use it precisely because of its fantastic wear resistance, which makes it ideal for kitchen hardware that you will handle regularly.

Pewter, on the other hand, is quite a soft alloy and requires handling with a bit more delicacy to avoid damaging the finish.

5. Commonly associated decor style

Because of nickel’s light golden glow, it’s a warm color ideal for most contemporary decorations. While not as common as chrome or steel, it’s appropriate for most modern designs.

Pewter, on the other hand, is a slightly more ornate metal usually reserved for more alternative or stylized looks that require something unique.

6. Cost

Brushed nickel is a bit more expensive than pewter as a finish because that raw metal costs a bit higher. Plus, that extra brushing process also required additional labor time, which factors into its slightly higher price.

Pewter vs Brushed Nickel: Are they the same?

While both pewter and brushed nickel make great choices for home hardware finishes, these metals and their properties are very different. You should know these differences before deciding the most appropriate for your home.

  • Pewter is a much more shiny and metallic-looking metal, much like a darker or muted silver. At the same time, nickel has a golden/champagne hue and a brushed matte finish.
  • While both metals are considered ‘living’ which means they react to the environment, the brushed finish of nickel makes it a bit more resilient and will change over timeless compared to the pewter.
  • Pewter tends to show smudges and watermarks more obviously than brushed nickel because of its shiny and reflective finish. Resulting in a little bit more upkeep and cleaning to keep it looking spic and span.
  • Nickel is a much harder and more durable metal than pewter. Meaning pewter requires a degree of care as the finish will damage easier.
  • While it’s possible to finish work with any decor style you wish, we generally associate nickel with a warmer and more contemporary look. In contrast, pewter is a bit more of an ornate and alternative look.
  • Because nickel as a metal is more expensive and requires brushing, a brushed nickel finish is a bit more costly than pewter.
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