The other day I was polishing one of my mother’s really nice silver candelabras (you know the kind used in Phantom of the Opera or Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast). I noticed one arm seemed to hang a bit lower than the other arm, so I pulled on it ever so slightly to adjust it. Pop! It was now a one armed candelabra, which is not a good thing.
My mom had some pieces re-silvered back in the 1980s or 90s, so I thought I would load up the candelabra and take it to Dallas for repair. To my surprise, I could only locate one vendor for repairing silver, and they were only open Monday through Friday 10 to 5 p.m. These hours are during the hours I work two hours away.
It made me wonder why, in a big city like Dallas, there is only one silver repair shop. Obviously there is not a need for more repair shops. So, are the silver repair people lonely because silver is out of vogue? Or is it more to do with our lifestyle – no one has time to polish and care for silver?
Back in the day of servants and housekeepers, silver polishing was not a problem. There was someone to do that task for the owner. Now however, we middleclass folks have to fend for ourselves. I am not even sure that house burglars want to steal silver anymore.
When entertaining, the choice for me comes down to where I want to put my time…in cooking the food or polishing the silver to serve food on. For a recent dinner party, I chose to do the latter and hired a caterer to cover the food.
Here are a few tips for working with silver pieces:
1. Store silver platters in a chemically treated cloth bag specifically designed to retard the effects of airborne sulfur on the silver. You can find these on Amazon.com and other vendors.
2. When using silver platters, I like to put a clear liner in the bottom to prevent dings and scratches. I buy the tablecloth plastic available in fabric/craft areas at fabric or box stores. I trace the flat bottom of the tray onto the plastic, cut around the tracing and put this piece in the bottom of the tray. No one can see it, but it does serve as a buffer. It also works well if you are putting fabric or paper liners in the bottom. Put the plastic under the fabric or paper.
3. When using silver candlesticks, I like to use bobèches, as I have already mentioned in another post. Along with these I like to use dripless candles. Even with these precautions, if you have a wind current (A/C, fan, window, etc.), there will be wax that drips down your candlesticks and possibly gets on your tablecloth or furniture. Note: If you end up with candle wax on your tablecloth, take it and have it dry cleaned. The dry cleaner fluid gets it out, according to my dry cleaner, Bob, at Town and Country Cleaners.
4. Personally, I like a little of the blackening to show on silver. For the wide-open areas, I like it polished and clean, but for the detail, I want the crevices to retain the dark coloration. It highlights the design and gives the finish a depth. But, I understand that that is not everyone’s preferred look.
Here are my thoughts on silverware, silver tea service, silver platters, silver candlesticks and all things silver: Use them. The more often you use them, they less tarnished they will become. Even if you must polish them before using them, go ahead and invest the time. There is no other finish that will catch the light like silver. In this regard, chrome is not a substitute for silver. Using real silver at a dinner or celebration lets your guests know this is a special event. Silver (such as platters, service ware, etc.) is a neutral. So silver goes with any color and all metals. Unlike jewelry, you can freely mix gold and silver on your dining table, buffet, or bar. Silver is appropriate with any event that is elegant or formal. It is gorgeous in daylight, moonlight, candlelight, natural light, or electric lights. And, of course, just by using silver you are making the event more sophisticated!
Let’s get our silver pieces out of the pantry and make silver fashionable again for more than jewelry. Let’s decorate our tables with silver candlesticks. Let’s get grandmom’s silverware out and use it at Sunday night dinners. Let’s polish all our silver once a year, just to show the kids how to do it.
Silver should not go by the wayside to our modern society. Let’s not forget all those silver linings we still want!