Before the Kuala Lumpur, Lah! media tour, I had little knowledge about what pewter really is, how it is made, and its importance in the history of Malaysia. So I was in for a treat when we dropped by the Royal Selangor Visitor Centre, established by the world’s foremost pewtersmithing company that was founded as far back as 1885 by Yong Koon, a young Chinese immigrant from the port town of Shantou. He joined his two brothers who worked as tinsmiths in the booming tin mining industry at that time.
Pewter is a gray alloy of tin with copper and antimony. Presently, the company offers over a thousand tableware and gift items, from tankards and tea sets, to photo frames, desk accessories and wine accessories. Distributed worldwide from its base in Kuala Lumpur, the company has more than 40 shops worldwide, and exports to more than 20 countries. The modern visitor center was opened in 2004 at the company’s headquarters, taking guests through an interesting tour of the company’s beginnings and the heritage of pewtersmithing in the country.
The well-designed and informative galleries displayed hundreds of pewter products manufactured by Royal Selangor through the decades. The museum – and the guide that showed us around – was very informative, and some of the exhibits also allowed visitors to interact with the displays. The most prized item on display, which made it back to the owner’s collection, is “The Lucky Teapot”, a melon-shaped teapot made by Selangor Pewter that saved its owner from death during the WW-II. Standing near the entrance to the museum is the world’s largest tankard, which can hold 2796 litres of beer! Another impressive sight within the gallery is a model of the Petronas Twin Towers made up of 7,000 pewter tankards.
After touring the museum galleries and factory, we were led to the workshops where we had a firsthand experience of crafting pewter. At The School of Hard Knocks (MYR 65 per person), we hammered a take-home engravable pewter dish using traditional tools, similar to those used by pewtersmiths more than 100 years ago, while at The Foundry (MYR 180 per person), we crafted pewter accessory by freehand, pouring molten pewter on the worktable to cool and harden.
Royal Selangor Visitor Centre
Address: 4 Jalan Usahawan 6, Setapak Jaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Operating Hours: Open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
This blog post was made possible through Kuala Lumpur, Lah!, a media tour held last March 12 to 15, 2018, organized by Gaya Travel Magazine.