All About Silver, Sterling Silver and Silver Plate
Does the very sound of the word "silver plate" conjure up images of servants laboring in back in the butler's pantry over gigantic silver tea services with polishing cloths?
You can enjoy genuine silver every day without the butler. In fact, silversmiths say if you use silver every day, it hardly ever needs polishing. Handling and normal washing provide sufficient rubbing to keep tarnish at bay.
You don't have to pay big bucks to dine with sterling silver, either. Vintage silver flatware and serving pieces cost far less than new silver, and they are often of higher quality. Old estate silver can be cheaper than new stainless tableware.
But perhaps the biggest reason some people are moving the heirloom silver out of the velvet-lined chest and into the silverware drawer is pure pleasure. The fine craftsmanship of older silver just isn't reproduced today in modern silver flatware. Modern stainless flatware has neither the beauty, craftsmanship nor the "feel" of antique silver.
"It's such a luxurious treat that's easy and doesn't cost anything," says one woman, who has been using her wedding silver every day since the '80's when her everyday silverware got misplaced in a move. She and her family quickly got used to using their fine silver for all meals.
Daily use hasn't harmed the silver, either. "If anything, it looks even nicer," one silver flatware user says. Silver dealers say frequent use does improve the look of flatware. Hand washing in warm sudsy water and drying / buffing with a soft towel is all that is needed. One recent buyer commented that hand washing her fine sterling silver enables her to enjoy her silver one more time before carefully storing it away in a tarnish-proof silver storage chest.
If you use if every day, it doesn't have time to tarnish. In addition, silver that is handled for many years acquires a patina, or warm glow, that is impossible to replicate in new or infrequently handled silver.
Of course, normal use causes tiny scratches and marks on the business end of utensils, but most collectors say those do not detract from the value or desirability.
Prices for antique and vintage silver have been on upward swing again due to an increase in fine metal costs after many years of falling prices. The search for collectible sterling and silver plate is up! Silver collectors have it very good right now, as the availability of estate silver seems to have reached its peak.
Art deco designs, including many by Reed & Barton, are popular today. Some silver dealers say customers have shifted away from collecting silver tea sets and trays due to the increasing costs. More popular are candelabras and small pieces, such as creamers, sugar bowls, napkin rings and unusual items such as pickle castors with glass or china inserts or bowl holders that fit a bride's basket.
An owner of an antique shop says his customers frequently mix and match silver patterns at the table. Mixing works best if you stick to very ornate or very simple patterns. Martha Stewart advocates this "eclectic" look, too.
A common misconception is that silver plate is an inferior product. While it will never have the same silver content as sterling, dealers and silversmiths say many manufacturers made very highly-quality silver plate. Many people don't realize that Tiffany made silver plate.
"Other names to look for when shopping for vintage silver plate include 1847 Rogers Bros., Gorham, Derby, Meriden, Poole, and Reed & Barton. If a piece is marked quadruple plate, it tells you that the piece was plated heavily", says a silversmith in Kansas City.
When buying old silver plate, condition is the key. Heel wear is a term used to describe thinning of the silver plate in areas of a utensil where it comes in contact with the table, creating a visible area - often gold or gray - where the base metal underneath shows through.
Dents can be repaired and broken handles reattached fairly easily. It is recommended that the piece be re-silvered after soldering to ensure a pleasing finish. Heavily used flatware can be polished on a machine to remove scratches for about $3.50 per piece. Store your fine silver or silver plate flatware in velvet or felt-lined silver storage chests or boxes - never in plastic zippy bags. Anti-tarnish linings and bags are available to retard tarnish.
Abe Silverman's offers many pieces of antique silver from the above mentioned silver companies. Each piece is carefully examined for unusual damage and flaws, which are noted, and cleaned and polished before shipping so that you are assured of receiving a antique silver piece ready to use or display!
For keeping your sterling and fine silver in "show" condition, we recommend the use of fine silver polishing products like Wright's Silver Cream, Twinkle and Hagerty.