60-Second Silver: Don’t be afraid to collect antique silver

If you think you would like to collect silver flatware, you’ll want to reference Warman’s Sterling Silver Flatware, 2nd Edition, Value & Identification Guide by Phil Dreis.

Are you a silver lover? Do you own sterling flatware, a tea set or a simple flower vase? If you do, you know the inherent beauty of the material and its functionality. Yet, if silver isn’t gracing your table, what reservations do you have about collecting it? Perhaps you’ve heard that once you buy silver, you’ll be polishing it three times a day. In fact, you’ll spend more time cleaning, oiling and waxing your furniture than you ever will maintaining your silver!

I used to live in a very dusty home with a damp basement, which was 75 feet from busy train tracks and just a few blocks from Interstate 95. Oh, and I almost forgot — I also lived about two miles from the ocean. If this doesn’t sound like a haven for tarnish to wreak havoc on silver, I don’t know what does. Curiously, though, the few pieces of silver I have collected stand up to these elements. I polished my nice sterling Arts & Crafts serving fork with 3M’s Tarni-Shield silver polish back in November of 1996, just to see how well it would protect. Eight months later, and, not surprisingly, the fork was in absolutely pristine condition, even after minor handling. This piece had been sitting naked on a china cabinet shelf, not wrapped in a flatware roll inside a safe.

Silver ages gracefully if properly maintained. If you use your flatware for everyday dining, polishing need not be a concern, as long as it’s washed afterwards. If your flatware is used only occasionally, polish it with 3M’s Tarni-Shield and store the pieces in a flannel flatware roll or lined chest with a 3M Anti-Tarnish strip to give added protection.

It doesn’t sound like you’ll be scrubbing your fingers to the bone, does it? Do you enjoy entertaining? Have you shopped for an accent piece for your dining room table, all the while suspecting that the silver vase or candelabra you really wanted would probably take hours to polish? This is yet another misconception. If the piece is already in good condition, applying non-toxic, pleasant-smelling Tarni-Shield will keep it virtually tarnish-free for months, if not years, depending on how frequently it’s handled. Renaissance wax can be used for longer-lasting protection. ?

Jeffrey Herman encourages anyone with silver-related questions that can’t be answered on his Web site hermansilver.com to contact him. He may be reached at 800-339-0417or jeff@hermansilver.com or at PO Box 786, West Warwick, RI 02893.

Jeffrey Herman started Herman Silver Restoration & Conservation in 1984, and has repaired and reconstructed everything from historically important tankards, tea services, and tureens to disposal-damaged flatware. Herman has worked at Gorham as a designer, sample maker, and technical illustrator and at Pilz Ltd., where he learned the fine art of restoration. Herman has a BFA degree in silversmithing and is the founder of the Society of American Silversmiths.


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