Questions Frequently Asked of and about Billy and Charlie's

Inquiring minds want to know...

  • So this stuff is pewter. That has lead in it, right?

    We're pouring a modern, lead-free pewter. It's a mix we get from a jewelry supplier, and it's made up mostly of tin, with a little copper and a little antimony mixed in. As we learn more about this craft, we have started experimenting with other tin alloys, trying to get materials that behave in particular (and more desireable) ways. For example, we cast ampullae in pure tin because our standard alloy won't make a hollow container when we try to slush cast it. We also use pure tin or tin antimony mixes in a number of other pieces. In most cases it appears that we are pushed to this experimentation because we are not using lead, which has many very desireable working qualities for this type of casting.

  • Where do you get your pewter?

    We buy it in five pound chunks from Rio Grande, a reputable dealer in jewelry supplies.

  • How strong are these pins? And how am I supposed to get them into my shirt anyhow?

    We find the pins are the artifact of the authentic technology which people have the most trouble dealign with. They are not as strong as the steel pins you find on the back of modern brooches. Our testing (performed in the most obvious way possible) indicates that you can bend most of these pins back and forth pretty far about 30 or 40 times before they break. Once that happens, your brooch looks a lot like the ones the mudlarks pull up with their metal detectors - they no longer have the pins that used to keep them in somebody's hat. If you are wearing your medieval jewelry in clothing that is infrequently washed, like a hat or a coat, you will probably never have to fasten and unfasten it often enough to make any difference.

    The other problem with the pins is that they are too thick to put into tightly woven textiles without marking the fabric or tearing a thread or two. They can be inserted without damage into looser weaves, knits, and fabrics made up of heavier threads. Wool and linen which is not too tightly woven is ideal (no surprise). You will probably want to open a hole with an awl if you are going to wear one of the brooches in a leather garment. For use in everyday life, you will have the best luck wearing the brooches in coats or other heavy garments - and they work perfectly in sweaters!

    Here's a final tip from one of our satisfied customers: fasten a pair of safety pins from the inside through your tightly-woven cotton garment at the place where you'd like to wear the pewter brooch. Slip the pin through the little bits of safety pins that are exposed, rather than through the fabric itself.

  • Where do you get off selling at such a high price something you admit is going to break?

    If durability were a defining characteristic of the medieval souvenirs and junk jewelry we're copying, we'd feel bad about selling brooches that won't stand up to repeated rough handling. We think we're selling reasonable authenticity, though, and what you actually get for your money are nearly irreproachable reproductions of medieval artifacts. They've got authentic designs, copied from real medieval pieces (in most cases); they're poured into stone molds which we made (and which could break, just like the real ones did, necessitating replacement); they're poured by hand; most of them come out of the mold one at a time and we clean them one by one to ensure that they are in good condition. We figure if you have the good taste to want authentic reproductions of medieval junk jewelry, you'll be able to deal with them having the irritating as well as the delightful qualities of their exemplars.

  • How do you make the molds?

    They are carved into carefully fitted pieces of stone. A brooch with a pin must come out of a mold made of three pieces of stone, one for the "face", the part with the design of the brooch, and two more for the back: one for each side of the pin. Some molds take more than three pieces; many molds that have a cavity in the finished piece, for example, must also include a "core" to make that cavity. We often use wooden cores. Some of our molds are soapstone (steatite); recently we have been using a serpentine. (The medieval molds which have been found are made of a number of stones, including soapstone and lithographic limestone.) Both these stones are relatively soft and we are able to carve them with hand tools.

  • Do you do special orders for badges?

    Yes. Making the mold is an extremely time-consuming part of producing jewlery by this authentic method. For this reason, there is a base fee for custom work - usually $250. This fee includes the production of the mold, and some castings from it. We will quote exact numbers for particular orders; for a relatively simple, three-part mold, your $250 would get you 50 copies of the piece. We will retain the mold and cast for you in the future at a reduced price, or send you the mold to keep, whichever you prefer. If you happen to want a copy of an authentic item and you aren't in a hurry, please contact us to suggest we make it. If we are amused by the project we might do it on our own and you would get to buy just one!

    Check out the page of custom work we have done in the past!


  • If I buy all the stuff to make a belt, how do I put it together?

    Full instructions are available.

  • Do you make belts for people who don't want to put them together themselves?

    Yes. We charge $30 - $40 above the price of the pewter components to make a belt up. Small adjustments from this charge are made for belts of very small, or very great, length or belts with very few, or a great many, studs.

  • Do *you* think those weird brooches in the Carnival section are are funny?

    Some of them we do, and some of them we don't.

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