60-Second Silver: Apply wax to stop handle rot

Over time, insulators, handles, finials, inserts and other porous components of silver tea and coffeepots, sauce pans, wine-bottle coasters, hairbrushes and the like can become loose or cracked. This may be the result of natural shrinkage, aggressive handling or running water over the component and allowing moisture to enter the socket or ferule that holds it in place, causing rot that can’t be seen. These susceptible materials include: wood, ivory, baleen, rhino horn, mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell, among others.

Here are some suggestions:

1. Always support a teapot or coffeepot by the bottom when holding it by the handle.

2. If a handle or brush is loose, have it secured by a reputable silver restoration specialist. Have broken or rotted components stabilized or replaced.

3. Never allow water to come into contact with porous components.

4. Remove dried polish with a cotton ball, cotton swab or soft brush.

5. With a lint-free cloth, apply three coats of a high-quality, crystal-clear carnauba paste wax, which will protect against moisture and deterioration.

6. It is safe to clean or polish an object if: (a) components are securely held in place and there are no gaps through which moisture can seep into hollow areas and (b) wax has been applied to the components.

7. Re-wax porous components.

8. Consult a silver restoration specialist with any questions. ?

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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