The Master Craftsman’s Secrets For Buying, Maintaining, and Fixing Your Silver


Grande Dame Silver

The winter holidays loom. Along with dreams of pumpkins, ghosts, turkeys, pies, Christmas lights, and menorah, come thoughts of polishing silver. Silver is surrounded by myths and misconceptions, like many luxury goods. All the better for exclusivity beyond cost alone. But there are people who know why not to put silver into dishwashers, and what you pay for when you buy sterling instead of silverplate. Recently, I interviewed Martin Biro, silversmith, of Biro & Sons. His family has been in silver for decades. I was happy to hear what Martin had to say.

What To Know Before Buying Silver

LPC: Let’s start with how to buy good silver. What should people look for?

Martin: First you have to determine whether to go with sterling or plated. There are pluses and minuses to both. Sterling is obviously more expensive, but sterling in this country has to be marked, and if it’s marked you always get 95% silver.

There are now very good quality silver plated sets out there. *Laughs* I have silver plate at home, even though my wife is not too happy about it. You can get a good deal. But you have to watch out. You need a good quality base metal, ideally nickel silver (which is rare nowadays), or brass. The less expensive plates use stainless steel. Silver is soft, steel is hard, so the combo is not effective for long term wearability.

It’s very hard to tell good silver plate from sterling. We’ve been fooled, once or twice, until we looked for the mark.

Biro & Sons workbench

LPC: Are there any brands you recommend?

Martin: One thing that you have to remember is that there’s not much manufacturing left in the USA. Few silver sets, even those with an American name such as Wallace, Reed and Barton, Gorham, or Towle (pronounced Toll), are made here any more. You are often buying an import from an American company. Tiffany may still be made in America, although they probably have stuff manufactured all over the world too.

When you go to buy flatware, first, and most important, hold it in your hand. Is it going to be pleasurable to use? Buccellati and Cristofle, for example, make silverware in the European style. It’s a heavy, large utensil. In the American style, forks and spoons are smaller, more delicate and lighter.

With sterling, it is what it is, only thing to decide is do you like it? Considering metal prices, it’s not going to be cheap. There were great prices 2-3 years ago, 8-$12/oz. Now silver is at $20/oz. The quality of flatware has to be gauged by the price. You can get sometimes get sterling on sale at Macy’s for as low as about $179.00 a place setting.

For silver plate, any reputable silver maker is going to be good. You will pay $200/setting for the good stuff vs. $18 for junk. Some manufacturers use poor quality stainless, and put silver on in thin quantities. Other companies, like Cristofle, pride themselves on heavy plating. A good heavy coating is anywhere between 8 and 12 microns.

Myself, I kind of like a modern style of the 30′s and 40′s. A lot of people like the more baroque, more ornate stuff, You can mix and match.

Biro & Sons workbench

The Secret of Used Silver

LPC: What about used silver? My mother bought me a mixed and matched 10-piece set from the London Silver Vaults when I got married. (I was a little disappointed not to get a set like her Tiffany pattern. I was young. And foolish, with no sense of the value of money. I’m over it.)

Martin: Absolutely you can get good deals on used silver. The way the economy is I have had people call and ask, “Can I sell it?” With the value of sterling going up, some people are willing to sell for the weight of the sterling alone.

It has to be marked sterling, and you have to look at the condition. If it’s not in excellent condition, you are going to have to bring it to somebody like me, and pay $5-$18 to restore it, each piece. For a used set, you also want to make sure it’s heavy. The older the silver, the heavier it will be. Silver makers have ways they have cheated over time, using less metal. If you look at patterns made in 1940, and still made today, the new version will be lighter. When they cast it, they hollow the handle out on the back.

Silver is being bought and sold on eBay, by those who are savvy about it. Otherwise, go to a local auction house, such as Butterfield‘s here in Northern California. or go to Replacements online. They have a large flatware exchange.

With silver, to get a good deal it’s very important to buy a complete set. No matter what the quality, if you don’t have the complete set, you don’t have the full value. Say you pay $1000 for a set missing 2 forks, you might then have to pay $100 per solo fork. You want to be counting your pieces and make sure you have the correct round number. 6 place settings is bare minimum for a set, ideally 12.

The Keys To Maintaining Silver And The Evils Of Dishwashers

LPC: How should people store their silver? Do those cases and bags really make a difference?

Martin: Traditionally people have silver boxes, that contain the pieces in an airtight environment, not exposed to temperature or moisture. There’s nothing worse for silver than sitting in the living room with the air conditioner one day and the heater the next. When silver gets moist, sulfur causes oxidation.

You can store individual pieces in treated flannel bags to help them resist developing sulfur. Even with the bags, to keep silver shiny and happy, put it in a drawer or a cabinet in an environment that doesn’t change.

LPC: I was just thinking the other day, it’s time to polish my silver. I actually like to the task, as long as the polish isn’t toxic and harsh. How should we be cleaning our silver?

Martin: Some people insist on using silver every day and throwing it into the dishwasher. Soaps in most dishwashing detergents have alkali, in order to dissolve food. You get a chemical reaction and the ingredients will etch silver. Takes the shine off. I don’t recommend it, I encourage my clients to hand wash.

LPC: *raises hand* Yes, I confess, I throw everything in the dishwasher.

Martin: *shakes head* The main thing to do when you are dealing with silver polish is to read the directions, if it says wash immediately with water, you are washing away some kind of acid chemical that cleans by attacking. If you can just dip it in and you are all set, the dip has to be pretty strong.

On the other hand, when you use something that you have to rub, you can be more comfortable there’s nothing really harmful in there. You have waxes, cleaners, a little bit of an abrasive, but it doesn’t harm the silver. The fact that you have to rub it, makes it shine. Like car waxes. Nothing’s going to kill you. People are always looking for the easy way out, and it’s not always the best.

We have carried Pine-Ola for 40 years. A good old-fashioned polish.

Sturdy Gal Silver

What To Remember About Silver Repair

LPC: You repaired a piece for me, an old polo trophy. I was very happy with the work. The base had fallen off, and it was dented.

Martin: We can repair pretty much anything. Even flatware that’s gone down the garbage disposal. Sometimes people are helping in the kitchen, a fork goes down the disposal, and you hear that crunch crunch crunch. Repairing is usually less expensive than replacing your flatware. Buying one fork in a certain pattern can get pricy, and sometimes we check for clients to find replacements and they are just not available. If you have a flatware set and one of the pieces gets damaged, don’t throw it away, keep it. Preserve your complete set.

The cost of repairs is based on labor. Mostly we file, hammer reshape, solder, and then repolish. You will spend from about $25 up to $100/piece on flatware repairs.

Some families in bring their silverware in for us to polish them once a year. On a 12-place set, depending on what I do, they can spend anywhere from $200 up to about $8-900.

Artsy Cousin Silver

The Enduring Tradition of Silver Sets

LPC: Martin, anything you’d like to tell us that I forgot to ask?

Martin: I can tell you that there is still a tradition of handing down silver in families. People’s lifestyle, they don’t entertain grandly any more, young people don’t have those big dinner parties in today’s world. But there has always been an interest in handing down silver sets, Aunt Ethel presents her grandchild, or a niece, with the set when they get married.

1/3 of our work is people bringing in sets to hand down. A lot of it is monogrammed. Monograms can be removed and new ones put on, but people usually keep the original because it’s a keepsake. When you are selling silverware, you don’t want a monogram, sterling sets with monograms have less value. But the monogram makes it a keepsake.

Silverware Confessions of a High WASP

Do I follow Mr. Biro’s sage advice? Well, yes and no.

  • No. I can’t bring myself to buy silver plate, preferring that substances assume their identities with impunity. So I go sterling, or stainless.
  • No. I throw my silver in the dishwasher because it’s all I have to eat with.
  • Yes. I polish with the old-fashioned stuff. Largely because I failed the harsh chemical smells section of the Sturdy Gal test. I like Twinkle.
  • Yes. I derive enormous satisfaction from bringing an old, tarnished, dented piece back to its former glory through repair.
  • Completely Off Track. Despite my usual preference for the simple and streamlined, I have a secret weakness for the ornate, delicate tracings of Kirk’s Old Maryland.

Happy polished silver and sparkling tables to all.

Martin, 56, and his brother, Rick, 48, run Biro & Sons with their father, Alex. They have all been in the silversmithing trade for decades. Alex learned originally, in his native Hungary, from his uncle. Emigrating in 1956, when Russians violently suppressed the Hungarian uprising, he moved to the Netherlands, to Canada, and finally to the USA. Biro & Sons has been in its location in San Francisco since 1976. Biro & Sons performed the engraving on Oracle’s America’s Cup. You can find more of their story here. You can find Martin, his family, and world-class traditional silver repair, at Biro & Sons, 1160 Folsom Street, San Francisco.

Images: me, my silverware, and the steampunk style workbench of old world craftsmen
No compensation of any sort has been received for anything here.

51 Comments

  • 09/30/10
    5:31 am

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    Marcela said...

    I am bookmarking this article and sending it to friends!
    I do not own silverware…yet ;) I inherited a complete set of alpaca silver silverware (which is not real silver) from my grandmother but it is in Argentina – and it is REALLY heavy. I love it as a keepsake but I prefer myself more modern, simpler designs. I would like to buy a set some day and this information is very valuable. Thank you!

  • 09/30/10
    5:41 am

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    Class factotum said...

    they can spend anywhere from $200 up to about $8-900.

    I am going to demand back pay from my mother, who used to pay me nothing to polish the silver and only a dime apiece for all the brass pots and candlesticks my dad got in Turkey. Then I am going into the silver polishing business.

  • 09/30/10
    5:50 am

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    Reggie Darling said...

    I grew up in a house that had rather a lot of sterling, as MD inherited a virtual Comstock load of it. All went in to the dishwasher and frequently down the disposal, too. Now that I'm all grown up I, too, have a good quantity of it, some inherited and some I bought. I do not put our "good" sterling in the DW, only our "every day" sterling! I have never bought new silver, only "used" at auction and from dealers. I rather enjoy the monograms on it, and have never considered taking them off. We use Hagerty's foaming polish on our silver. I highly recommend storing larger silver pieces (trays/coffee pots/candelabra when not in use) in those treated felt bags, and a secret is using the treated paper strips sold in more specialized stores that you can put among piles of knives, spoons, etc. in drawers that slows down the tarnishing a lot. Best, though, to actually use your silver instead of storing it away to be used only for entertaining. Reggie

  • 09/30/10
    6:08 am

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    Jan said...

    No silver here, and I don't think I'll be purchasing any – I began to twitch at the prices quoted for buying, repairing and cleaning. I think I'll look for a good-quality stainless set.

    Having said that, I inherited Be's maternal grandmother's china, which has a lovely pattern. Can you do a post on china? As of right now, it's in a box in our basement, and I'm thinking that's probably not the best place for it.

  • 09/30/10
    6:12 am

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    hostess of the humble bungalow said...

    Very thorough post Lisa…
    I am a Twinkle gal myself.

    I do put my silver in the dishwasher on the gentle cycle…and do not use it daily…it makes it's appearance at teas, birthdays, dinner parties and family gatherings.

    I think buying a set at auction or from an antique shop is the least expensive option…and would make a lovely wedding gift.
    Nice to know that you use yours everyday…I'd love to see the polo trophy.

    The Old Maryland link didn't work for me?
    (error 44 I think)

  • 09/30/10
    6:42 am

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    metscan said...

    Thank you for a very informative post. We only use our silver flatware on special occasions. The stainless steel ones we have, look better, IMO.

  • 09/30/10
    7:49 am

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    Gigi said...

    I enjoyed this post so much. Thank you

  • 09/30/10
    8:10 am

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    Patsy said...

    Class Factotum – me too! It wasn't a holiday without the scent of Hagerty's wafting through the house.

    Dishwasher girl, too – except the knives!

    You can clean silver with baking soda, salt, boiling water and aluminum foil: http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howtos/ht/silverdip.htm

  • 09/30/10
    8:11 am

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    Belle de Ville said...

    Fabulous and informative post. Last night I was at a lecture by Jean-Claud Bourbon who is the gentleman in charge of the custom orders at the Christofle factory in France. There is so much craftsmanship that goes into the making of fine silver pieces, and the high prices reflect this.
    In my opinion the best way to acquire silver is to inherit it, like jewelry. But, if this is out of the question, buying pre-owned silver from auction houses, estate sales or antiques dealers is a great option.

  • 09/30/10
    8:23 am

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    SewingLibrarian said...

    This is a great post. I wasn't lucky enough to inherit a set of flatware, but I got mine in an unusual way. When I got married (the first time), a company called Imperial Margarine was having a promotion. With a number of box tops and a small amount of money one could buy sterling flatware from them. As I was in college at the time and not buying margarine, my mother, my aunts, our neighbors, and friends obligingly switched to Imperial margarine and saved the box tops for me. I got a complete set of twelve place settings by the time of the wedding. I only recently learned that the pattern I chose was, in fact, a regular Oneida pattern and not one made specifically for the promotion. And, luckily, I still like it!

  • 09/30/10
    8:32 am

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    Susan Tiner said...

    Thank you for introducing Biro & Sons. We too put silver in the dishwasher because that's all we have. I don't know if it's silver or silver plated. For awhile we've been thinking about purchasing a used set — this is a great resource post.

  • 09/30/10
    8:36 am

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    Staircase Witch said...

    Thanks for posting this. I have X's great-grandmother's sterling, which his mother insists I can toss in the dishwasher, but I always wash it by hand anyways. And there is a serving spoon that was corroded from apparently having been left in some tomato aspic once–I will definitely see about getting it fixed.

  • 09/30/10
    8:51 am

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    Tabitha said...

    Oh I hate silver cleaning day, I honestly think that silver is just too much bother nowadays. I'll never add to my few inherited pieces, well unless I can hire a scullery maid in a cloth cap to come clean it for me.

  • 09/30/10
    9:23 am

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    Carole said...

    I use my sterling every day because that's what we did in our family when I was growing up. It's okay to put your silver in the dishwasher, but be sure that there is no stainless in there as there is a chemical reaction with the dishwasher detergent and the stainless that causes pitting in your silver. Note that "modern" knives usually have a high-quality stainless blade so you may want to handwash your knives. With daily use, your sterling will acquire a burnished patina.

    Rinse your silver if it's come in contact with eggs as the sulfur will darken your silver. As Staircase Witch mentioned, acidic foods can corrode your silver, so rinse it.

    I find it very zen to polish my silver; for me, it's relaxing. I use Wright's cream polish, and something that I learned from a jeweler, I'll use polishing cloths for gold (not a typo–you want the gold) for a quick touch up. The cloths can be purchased in Walmart's jewelry department.

    I don't recommend the "easy" baking soda, foil, etc., bath as it can strip your silver.

  • 09/30/10
    9:29 am

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    Louise said...

    I had a set of Towle Candlelight that I inherited from my grandfather. Sold it on eBay this spring. It was always too ornate for my tastes, and we have no room to store it on the bus.

    What I learned from the exercise of selling it: that lots of lovely, antique silver is available on eBay. Should one ever have a hankering for it, it can be purchased.

    Let someone else store and clean it until then.

  • 09/30/10
    9:50 am

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    The Ancient said...

    We too have an enormous amount of silver, none of which ever goes in the dishwasher.

    When it's just us, we use a hodge-podge of Edwardian and late Victorian silver, all family things.

    When we're in full van der Luyden mode, we use the Georgian silver, including some rather nice Paul Storr plates.

    But when we're entertaining family — people we love — we use the pre-Civil War Tiffany, now five generations old.

    P.S. Regarding silverplate, we have a large number of old silverplate platters in the country — with many different monograms — which are used for parties. (I don't want to get annoyed with butterfingered guests or servers, and this helps.) As for cleaning and polishing, if we're alone, one of us usually does it; more than that and it's the responsibility of my sainted housekeeper. Repairs, etc. nearly always go to the legendary Jeffrey Herman in Providence, RI.

  • 09/30/10
    1:15 pm

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    Anonymous said...

    I am not from your background so I will inherit nothing, but I do like silver. A couple of years ago, I started buying pieces of silverplate from ebay. We used it full time and threw it in the dishwasher, but it all started to look pretty spotty and I no longer wanted to use it for company after that. So then we had the weird situation of having silver (plate) for everyday and stainless for occasions, which…?? Finally, we just gave up on the silverplate and started using the stainless every day. I wonder if really vigorous polishing will clean the black fork tines and the spots on the knife blades, or will just strip off whatever silverplate remains.

  • 09/30/10
    1:34 pm

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    Faux Fuchsia said...

    Loved this post! I love silver but I hate and loathe cleaning the stuff!!!!

  • 09/30/10
    1:57 pm

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    Heidi said...

    I love this post too! We were fortunate to be given a set of very old sterling for our wedding. We don't have a formal dining room, and amongst our friends we are the only ones to have silver (I'm in Australia – a lot of people tend to entertain very casually).

    I make a point to get it out whenever we have people over. The rest of the table I set fairly casually (think farmhouse style table, modern Eames chairs, no tablecloth etc), but I put out the silver and my nice glasses, and it works well. I think it's a great shame that more people just keep it for a "special" occasion only. Our guests always comment on how nice it is.

    It also has monograms on every piece, which people always comment on as well. Definitely wash by hand though! As it's not every day, it doesn't bother me much. Actually, I'm staring at it at the moment, as we entertained last night…..I should probably stop procrastinating!

  • 09/30/10
    3:13 pm

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    The Ancient said...

    I forgot something important

    If all our silver were to disappear overnight — as once happened to an aunt — I wouldn't think of replacing it. Because I couldn't buy anything that had any familial connection at any price, and that's what I like about it.

    When that aunt was old, I bought her a set of Christofle stainless. I'd probably do the same for myself today, under the same circumstances.

  • 09/30/10
    3:24 pm

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    the gardeners cottage said...

    hi lpc,

    learned a lot here. how to pronounce towle, how to take care of expensive silver (don't have anything really expensive) but it's good to know just in case and mostly that i'd love to have been at the party that the polo cup got dented!

    ~janet

  • 09/30/10
    3:29 pm

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    RoseAG said...

    Very nice!

    I've acquired several sets from departed relatives with a variety of monograms and I consider that part of it's charm.

    I'm guilty of putting it in the dishwasher, and truthfully it doesn't do the shine any good to wash it that way. This should be my moment to stop that!

    I think China would be a wonderful follow-on to this.

  • 09/30/10
    4:00 pm

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    Pigtown-Design said...

    We used to put everything in the dishwasher but the knives, because water could get between the handle and the blade. We always had Stieff Rose because that was my mother's family's name.

    I have a bunch of old Mappin & Webb that I inherited from the other side of the family.

  • 09/30/10
    4:35 pm

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    Summer is a Verb said...

    I had Kirk's Old Maryland engraved in my old life. This time round I'm putting my request in for Tiffany's or Cristofle por favor…XXOO

  • 09/30/10
    4:55 pm

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    QueenBeeSwain said...

    loooooooooooooove you for this post! MoMo uses her silver (Nanny's and Gma's) often too :)

    keep on having a ball in your 95 degree paradise! clearly having a moment or several next weekend :)

    kHm

  • 09/30/10
    6:48 pm

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    Town and Country Mom said...

    Great post! I have my maternal grandmother's sterling as well as some Hepplewhite I bought at an estate sale. It's tradition for me to pay my children a token amount (although it seems to increase each year!) per piece to polish the silver sometime before Thanksgiving. I probably use the Hepplewhite once a month or so the rest of the year–and I put it in the dishwasher. I'd love to hear what Martin has to say about coin silver.

  • 09/30/10
    9:00 pm

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    La Belette Rouge said...

    I inherited a large set of Wallace's Grand Baroque. I am ashamed to say that I NEVER use it. I hate to think how long it has been since any of it has gotten a good polish. Ugh!

  • 10/01/10
    2:48 am

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    DocP said...

    I grew up using the sterling every day. It doesn't really require much polishing if you use it daily and rotate so everything gets used. Always hand washed. Now I've inherited the silver of my childhood and mostly use it for entertaining.

  • 10/01/10
    5:54 am

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    Duchesse said...

    If you must put in diswasher at least keep the knives out. Most have hollow handles that are glued or soldered, and the d/w's drying stage is hell on them.

    There are two types of people, those who hate polishing silver and those who like it! (I like it). If you hate it, just get what you can use everyday, like DocP. We prefer Christofle, the somewhat overscaled European silver suits our table.

    Unmatched silver makes a charming, witty place setting, too.

  • 10/01/10
    6:53 am

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    Patsy said...

    "I don't recommend the "easy" baking soda, foil, etc., bath as it can strip your silver."

    Actually, it's the opposite. Commercial polishes and dips strip the layer of silver sulfide (tarnish) from the item, along with particles of silver. The baking soda method causes a chemical reaction that bonds the silver sulfide to the aluminum and returns the silver to item.

  • 10/01/10
    7:50 am

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    Crown + Castle said...

    I absolutely love this post (and your blog).

    My husband and I have several heirloom family sets of silver. We use these only for special occasions and holidays, and polishing silver is, to me, part of the holiday festivities. I usually polish with several family members and a cup of tea and some cookies! I only handwash the heirloom silver.

    We do use a separate set for everyday use, though, and we put it in the dishwasher every single day. I love using silver on a daily basis! Glad to know I'm not the only one with silver on my mind.

  • 10/01/10
    9:30 am

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    Elizabeth Hammond Pyle said...

    Its funny how many of us grew up with the chore of polishing silver and then grow up to enjoy having and using it.

    My mother in law swears by a bath in some concoction of foil and other products. (I don't think its baking soda.) And her annual Christmas present to me is to come polish my silver before I host the big holiday dinner. After reading some of the above, I am thinking its not the best idea, but I am so grateful for the help that I might just have to thank her and let her continue!

  • 10/01/10
    10:52 am

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    Meg said...

    Well great. Now I'm thinking about silver again, which means I'm grumpy.

    I really, really, really want a silver set. I kind of thought with my High WASP card I would get one with entry to marriage. Turns out not so much. Turns out with the price of silver these days the price of a set will make you weep many many big crocodile tears. Also, turns out, High WASPs believe in strict order, so no matter how much silver is in the family (loads. And some very very old.) You're not allowed to receive it until your direct ancestor dies. Which seems a *tad* un-fair to me, since my parents already have something like 36 place settings and no energy for 36 person parties with more silver coming to them, but I digress.

    And lets not even get into the "K" silver, which my sister and I are already fighting over. I couldn't change my name just for that reason. She said if I did, the "K" silver was hers, and I'm no sucker. I figure if I give my kids MY last name, then I get the "K" silver right? Obviously. I'm so smart.

    Achem.

    I did inherit all of my grandmothers china, which was her engagement gift to us. As a trained artist, her china is also amazing, of course. Which reminds me, once we invest in a dining (living) room table, I should have you over to eat on it. But bring your own silver. Grumble.

  • 10/01/10
    3:22 pm

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    Cate said...

    I doubly love this, almost as much as I love my walnut chest of Kirk Repousse. I know it's the frilly girl's pattern, which I am not, and I don't care. When I was 15, my aunt took me to Bromberg's to pick out my pattern, and that's what I liked. I grew polishing our home sterling — La Salle and Gorham Greenbriar — with Wright's, and I still associate that purply, gummy smell with Christmas dinner. I LOVE polishing silver now; to me, it means my husband and I are keeping our families' traditions while building our own.

    Next time you're in New York, you must go to Jean's Silversmiths on W. 45th. It's all estate, and they don't carry plate, as far as I was told. Their prices are competitive, and digging through the bins is nothing sort of a pure pleasure. You know, if you're into that sort of thing.

  • 10/01/10
    5:07 pm

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    EntertainingMom said...

    I love polishing my silver. We don't use it often enough. I too am guilty of placing my silver in the dishwasher… except for the handles which are hollow and must be washed by hand.

  • 10/01/10
    8:39 pm

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    theduchessofH said...

    I love polishing silver, it's as easy as washing dishes, with Hagerty Silver foam. I use it on my sterling vermeil services too.

    I have no problem putting my old sterling, and plate (except the repousse) in the dishwasher. I only use Cascade powder.
    I don't ( although I have, without damage) put my 'good' sterling and sterling vermeil, in the dishwasher, but I do try to hand wash my Wallace 'Stradivari' sterling, and Wallace 'Grande Baroque' and 'Romance Of The Sea', sterling vermeil.

    I have had many (child slavery) years of experience when it comes to silver. Most of the commercially sold stuff is labour intensive, messy, and frustrating. Dips are very harsh, and not something I like to use. I don't care for the baking soda, aluminum plate methods either; if things are really bad, I would send them out to a professional.

  • 10/01/10
    9:08 pm

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    Mary Jo from TrustYourStyle said...

    This was completely enthralling for me. I have always loved silverware and my mom always vacillated between how to clean her set but usually made me and my brother help her do it around Christmas time. I have my heart set on a Tiffany pattern now, but have only one piece so far :) which I see I have been cleaning the wrong way. Thank you for this, it made my night!

  • 10/02/10
    7:23 am

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    Carole said...

    I am chuckling to myself at how many of us were conscripted as children to polish silver. :-)

    Here are some excellent reasons why you shouldn't use the aluminum foil/baking soda dip method: http://www.hermansilver.com/care.htm#Electrochemical

    You'll also find many helpful FAQs re maintaining your silver.

  • 10/02/10
    8:30 am

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    LPC said...

    Marcela – I hope everyone finds it useful. Martin was so helpful. Alpaca silver I had never heard of. Thanks.

    Class – Sounds like a plan:).

    Reggie – I look forward to future posts on the silver of Darlington House:).

    Jan – Yes, good idea. I will have to find a china expert for us. Anyone have a good candidate? Reggie? And I personally think that good, simple, cleanly designed heavy stainless is both elegant and practical.

    hostess – I gave the polo trophy to my brother for Christmas:). I think it's on the blog somewhere in a photo… I will fix the Old Maryland link, thanks.

    metscan – What maker?

    Gigi – You are very welcome!

  • 10/02/10
    8:37 am

    Reply

    LPC said...

    Patsy – I am clearly going to have to give Hagerty's a try. The thing about knives is that the hollow handles have been known to explode.

    Belle – Thank you. The thought of custom orders from Christofle makes my eyes roll back into my head with desire:).

    Librarian – Of course I remember Imperial Margarine. How amazing to get your silverware that way. What a great story.

    Susan – My pleasure. The Biro facilities are fascinating – well worth a visit.

    Staircase – Biro can definitely do the job. I'm going through my old stuff piece by piece and having them fix it, to stretch out the expenses.

    Tabitha – I can just imagine the maid.

    Carole – Of course, the entire inside of my dishwasher is stainless:).

  • 10/02/10
    8:43 am

    Reply

    LPC said...

    Louise – Ha! Ornate silver on a bus! Ken Kesey would have approved, I think. Clearly used silver is a great option.

    The Ancient – Your silver collection sounds absolutely gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

    Anon – You could bring it to a silversmith. They will tell you if it's tarnish or whether the silver would need to be replated.

    FF – It's funny, isn't it. I prefer cleaning to silver to baking. I am always amazed at all the baking you manage to do.

    Heidi – Good for you always washing by hand. And I think if you live in an informal culture, people often appreciate those who have the resources and intent to make a little effort. I always used to bring out the silver and formal china, but serve on straw mats. And of course left any stuffiness in the closet with the ancestors:).

    Ancient – Christofle stainless, just what I got when I got married.

  • 10/02/10
    8:54 am

    Reply

    LPC said...

    Janet – You know what? I didn't even think about that, but I bet you are right about the wild party. God knows what they drank from that thing.

    Rose – OK. China it is. Thank you.

    Pigtown-Design – Mappin & Webb. I will go look it up. And how sweet, to have Stieff Rose to follow a family name.

    Summer – Can I come with you to your new life?:)

    QBS – I wonder what you would have as your silver pattern?

    Town and Country – You are right, I forgot to ask about coin silver…

    La Belette – Yes, well, that's some very baroque silver:).

  • 10/02/10
    9:00 am

    Reply

    LPC said...

    Duchesse – I like to polish, but since I use my silver every day, I have decided to live with the consequences of my dishwasher sins:). I would love to have even more unmatched than I do, now.

    Patsy – Hmm. Martin only told me that if it's harsh your silver is at risk. I do not know the answer to this.

    Crown + Castle – Thank you so much. Nice to meet you:).

    Elizabeth – Yes, it is really fun to see how many people polished the silver as children. At the end of the day, having your silver take some wear and tear is not worth wrecking a family tradition, right?

    Meg – Achem:). I will bring my own silver. And somehow I know that silver will come your way. One way, or another.

    Cate – I looked that pattern up. I like the repousse look, much better than the ornate cast patterns. I will go to Jean's and see what they have. Biro and Sons also have some used stuff on sale….

  • 10/02/10
    9:03 am

    Reply

    LPC said...

    EntertainingMom – Well, break out the silver. I will come to dinner and help you polish.

    duchessofH – Yet another vote for Hagerty's. Hmmm. Wow, your collection sounds fabulous. Dips are clearly harsh, everyone seems to agree there.

    Mary Jo – You are so welcome!

    Carole – Thanks for the additional information. Very helpful for us all.

  • 10/02/10
    9:05 am

    Reply

    LPC said...

    DocP – Aargh. Sorry to miss you going through the comments. Old eyesight. That was a good reminder to me. I need to rotate my silver more. The stuff I use absolutely stays shinier.

  • 10/02/10
    11:29 am

    Reply

    Caroline, No. said...

    Not married, no silver. But this post has inspired me to take me up on my mother's offer of my grandmother's silver. And I love the word silver! x

  • 10/02/10
    2:08 pm

    Reply

    Her Preppiness said...

    Great article. I love silver!!!

  • 10/06/10
    4:43 pm

    Reply

    Lindy said...

    Your mention of the London Silver Vaults brought back such wonderful memories. Is it still open?

    I have my grandmother's grandmother's monogrammed coin silver spoons. When I use them, I feel like I am holding history in my hands.

  • 10/09/10
    8:08 am

    Reply

    Lauren @ Adventures of a Southern Newlywed said...

    What a great post! I will inherit my great grandmother's sterling flatware set. I love the concept of silver in the family. I think that is part of the appeal.

  • 10/09/10
    5:51 pm

    Reply

    glaciercountyhoney said...

    I adore silver, and am so lucky to be a Francis I gal. Do you know about the silver pattern horoscope, once featured in a favorite coffee table book of mine, The Southern Belle Primer: Or Why Princess Margaret Will Never Be a Kappa Kappa Gamma (Marilyn Schwartz)? Hilariously darling and reprinted here: http://www.modernbelle.net/2009/03/silver-patterns/

    I hope it's ok to leave such a long comment, I just love this bit of nonsense:

  • 06/28/12
    3:27 am

    Reply

    Sam Mathews said...

    This was completely enthralling for me. I have always loved silverware and my mom always vacillated between how to clean her set but usually made me and my sister help her do it around Christmas time. I have my heart set on a Tiffany pattern now, but have only one piece so far which I see I have been cleaning the wrong way. Thank you for this, it made my day!
    Also got a question for you, if you can please help!! Is it safe to clean silver with baking soda, salt, boiling water and aluminum foil?? I heard they turn white. Is it so??

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