This summer I am taking my silver out of the pantry and setting it on the table, thanks to the fabulous inspiration from Nancy Stuckwisch of Silver Magpies. Her theory of Every Day best is life changing, mood lifting and essential reading for enjoying a more refined domestic lifestyle. She has had a life-long fascination with vintage silver, and believes we should get the silver out of the cupboard, onto the table, and then into the dishwasher. This week I sat down with Nancy and asked her to share a few shining tips for enjoying silver everyday.
Coryanne: I love your every day best theme, I often eat my popcorn out of a silver wedding dish that my mother received. For those who have not read “Every Day Best”, what can you tell us about every day silver?
Nancy: As far as I’m concerned any piece of silver is everyday silver. I don’t draw any distinction between “best” and “everyday” as far as the individual pieces are concerned. Just get your silver out of storage and use it! So many people save these lovely things, waiting for a special occasion that never comes around. Often I hear, “Oh I meant to take it out, but by the time it was Thanksgiving, I had so much to do I just didn’t get around to it.”
It is not the things that make special occasions special, it’s the people. If your family is not enough reason to get out the silver, what is? Why not make an ordinary dinner more special by using lovely things? These are the people you love, celebrate them every day.
Coryanne: What everyday storage advice do you have for everyday silver?
Nancy: Put it somewhere you can get to it. It does not matter if you store it in the drawer, in a silver chest or in glasses on the counter. It won’t be everyday if you have to go to the attic or basement. Out of sight, out of mind is a cliche for a reason! Oh, and please, please don’t wrap it in plastic wrap! It’s a long story, but silver and plastic wrap are not good together.
Coryanne: When buying antique silver, what advice do you have for the budding antique shopper?
Nancy: If you have a thing for English silver of the Georgian era and know you will be on the look out for it, do some research beforehand. More you know the better. There are books and websites galore. If you happen to be out and spot a shiny treasure you can’t resist, at least pause and ask questions. Any reputable dealer will be glad to tell you everything they know about the piece. If you don’t understand ask more questions.
Even the experts don’t know everything. Silver is a very complicated with lots of sub-specialties. I can tell you about English and American silver, but French silver is not my area at all. Silver from further afield is even more difficult. Reputable dealers stick to what they know.
Coryanne: Wedding season is upon us, do you have any suggestions for silver essentials?
Nancy: Oh my, where to start! First thing is to put preconceived notions of silver aside. It isn’t old fashioned and high maintenance. There is a style and shape to suit every taste – from simple to baroque and everything in between! The second is ask yourself if you really want “a set”. I know it has traditionally been the done thing to register for a single pattern, but there are many advantages to mixing it up.
One of the chicest clients I have has an amazing composed set. She has mixed fine Georgian with Art Deco American, Mother of Pearl with Sterling. On the table it is absolutely stunning. It complements her pitch perfect taste and expresses her personality in a way that a “set” cannot. It also had the advantage of being extremely reasonable to put together. Sets are more expensive than individual pieces or small groups of items.
As for actual items…my personal choices would include
- serving spoons – of different sizes and shapes are always useful
- napkin rings – I have been known to put a paper towel in them
- candlesticks – everything looks better in candlelight
- sugar tongs – I love sugar tongs for serving, nothing escapes them to squirt away or roll off and ruin your clothes, the table or carpet.
Just about every item imaginable is made in silver, but these are the things I use over and over again.
Coryanne: I tend to boil my silver as polishing is not really high on my fun list, what cleaning advice can you give us polish shy silver users?
Nancy: Polishing is not my idea of fun either. I do so much of it when getting items prepared for sale (the plastic wrap story plays a role here) that were stored improperly 50 or more years ago, the last thing I want to do is polish my own.
But here is the startling truth – the more you use your silver, the less you polish it. Let me make a distinction between “polishing” and “cleaning”.
Polishing should only be an occasional event. Tarnish builds up on silver as it reacts to sulfur in the air. Regular use and handling ensure that tarnish never gets a chance to build up. It’s only once tarnish has had a couple of years to get nice and dark that it is a real task to polish off.
Cleaning is what you do after having used a fork at dinner time. My favorite way to clean silver is in the dishwasher. There are a couple of common sense guidelines, but nothing too onerous!
Every so often (and we’re talking year long intervals here) I do give it a light going over. My particular preference is to use a polish designed to be washed rather than buffed off. If the boiling water, tin foil, and baking soda is your preference, go for it.
Silver is much more durable than its given credit for. Every day my family uses spoons that are getting on for 300 years old. I guarantee that they have not been lovingly hand polished by a kid-glove wearing butler each time they have been used. More likely dumped in a stone sink and left for the scullery maid to scrub at with a rough rag. The silver has not been worn away or damaged – it doesn’t have a mirror bright finish, but that is one of the many charms of silver. Patina is that lovely grey sheen indicative of use.
Silver plate is much more delicate than sterling or continental silver. Once you consider that silver plating only deposits a thin (sometimes only 1 micron) layer of silver over a base metal, it’s not surprising that it wears away. Sometimes I wonder if this is the origin of the notion that silver is delicate.
Thank you so much Coryanne. It has been a real pleasure answering your questions and an honor to be mentioned on Housewife Bliss.
Caring for your precious possessions | Housewife Bliss
Domestic Bucket List | Housewife Bliss