Elegant Entertaining with Antique Silver

Fall has arrived, and the holidays will soon be upon us. As we do the fall cleaning, hanging the heavier drapes and curtains, adding some deeper, warmer colors to our decorating schemes, making our homes into a cozy, warm, welcoming nest, our plans for holiday entertaining are being pondered. Family traditions that are passed down through the generations help set the theme for memorable holiday dinners. Nothing says welcome to your guests, more than a beautifully set table. Using Grandma’s favorite china, the family silver, your Mom’s crystal glasses, your special damask tablecloth and matching napkins all can make it into a special event. Even if the family heirlooms have dwindled and disappeared, you can still create the magic with your own collections and not spend the family fortune doing it.
Silver has for centuries been an important part of elegant dining. The Victorians had so many different pieces making up a place setting, there special forks, spoons, knives for every course as well as indivual foods. Fortunately our style of entertaining has simplified things a lot. But silver flatware is still an important part of setting an elegant table especially for the holidays.
The two most collected types of silverflatware are Sterling Silver which is all silver and Silver Plate which is silver over a base metal. Sterling is the most expensive of the flatware. It is long lasting and has a beautiful patina that only gets better with age. Most sterling is marked sterling either in letters or symbols also known as hallmarks. Silverplate is also maked as such or as inlaid silver, AA silver or quadruple plate which is a common marking for Victorian silverplate items. Silver has to be polished to remove the tarnish that can build up and turn the silver item dark. Polishing silver can be made part of a family holiday tradition also. Make it into a girls night event, having a few special family and friends over to sit, chat, snack and polish, maybe a few nights or weeks before the big holiday feast. The old adage, “Many Hands Make Light Work” comes into play here, it’s a great time to make holiday plans and menus, deciding who is making what recipes, laughing about past disasters, sharing special holiday memories and starting new traditions. Before you know it all the silver is shiny and ready for the festivities. Remember silver should never be put in the dishwasher, after polishing with a silver polish, rinse items well, dry and then rub and buff with an old terry towel for a beautiful warm patina. I collect silverflatware, I find patterns that I like that are similar and mix and match and build a set over the years as I need to add pieces. I do have a complete set that passed down from family but it wasn’t a pattern that I would have chosen had I purchased it myself. I love it because of the memories and the people who loved it but put my own touch on the table setting by adding other patterns that compliment it but add bits of my style to the table setting. I find here in my shop, people tend to buy individual items in quantities of 6’s or 8’s or 12’s of spoons, forks, knives ect. separately rather than buying complete sets of place settings for 8 or more. Serving pieces are often collected in an assortment of patterns and mixed and matched.
When buying silver either from a dealer, auction or estate sale or online, condition is important. Scratches from use are part of the charm of old silver but scratches or worn spots down to the base metal on silver plated items is not a good investment nor should be used for eating. Heavily tarnished silver can hide problems. Try to look closely and rub away some of the tarnish to try to examine what condition the silver is underneath it. I buy lots of silver at auction in boxlots, much of it heavily tarnished and sometimes it can be quite a surprise when I start polishing what I find underneath. Taking a dark blackened piece and cleaning it and it turns into a beautiful gleaming piece of silver is great fun. Sometimes I find under the tarnish the word “sterling” which wasn’t visable when it was black and then realize I truly found a treasure. I can also be disappointed and find pieces that have most of the silverplate worn off. But it is a treasure hunt still. Never use abrasive cleaners, brillo or wrap with rubber bands all these will harm the finish. The old fashioned wooden silver chests are still the best place to store the silver when not in use. You can still find these silver boxes in many thrift shops, some are so beautifully crafted, like fine furniture. There are also fabric rolls that have pockets for the pieces and tie up with a ribbon to store your silver in.
So even if Grandma’s silver has gone you can collect and create your own collection to use and set an elegant table. Like the ecletic style of decorating that makes rooms so inviting and interesting, a mix of patterns can lead to creating a striking table setting. Mixing and matching china and serving pieces can create your own special style, just find one unifying trait to tie the collection all together
Sorry I haven’t added any images to this post, I am suffering from a crashed PC and am awaiting delivery of a new one and will be slowly filling it with new images and information and will hopefully be up and running soon and off this laptop.


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