My father’s generation used to play with tin and lead soldiers, a clear reminiscence of what was still flowing in their parents’ eyes as well as a partial explanation for ruins and barbwire.
When I was at home, in Italy, I found these pieces in the wooden cupboard. Giovanni De Simone used red clay and colourful figures to spread energy to the owners of his pieces. Some histories want that a couple of American tourists got poisoned by the lead used in his glaze, but I believe this white, mellow glaze floating calmy on such terracotta pieces as being the result of vitrified tin oxide.
Tin, Zinn in German, tenn in Swedish, stagno in Italian, has a (gross) price around 50 € per kilo here in Berlin. In a majolica receipt you may have 10% of tin oxide that will result in a cost of 25 € for a glaze barrel of 5 kg.
In the eyes of a potter, tin is an expensive but often essential element in the storage.
Tin oxide, SnO₂, melts easily and turns the glaze into a white and opaque cover that enhances all the other oxides and colors used to decorate the vessel.
Tin is an important ingredient in every maiolica glaze receipt, whether the poisonous lead is desired or not.
Burning a tin-glazed vessel in a kiln where chrome is covering other pieces will turn your beautiful matt white glaze into a pink-confused-white surface.
Tin, by the way, is the metal that in alloy with copper gives bronze.
You can easily guess what I love most of writing about ceramics: behind a grain of dust, the entire periodic table of elements shows you the way to a magnificent world of chemistry, fantasy, fire and hard work.