Wednesday, February 9, 2011


As an ex-museum director, I had to know how to handle and preserve the works of art that were in my care…and because it was an historic house museum, sometimes these items got handled by others as well, without the white gloves! Today I’ll be talking a little about the Care of Silver. The most important thing you want to do is keep your silver free of tarnish. A little oxidation is fine, and that means the natural oxide that appears on silver and darkens it and actually helps ornaments it, creating the depth and shadows. You just don’t want tarnish or excessive oxidation.

The first thing I would caution is NEVER dip your silver in those baths you see sold at antiques shows or on late night TV when you can’t sleep, get antsy and feel compelled to whip out your credit card. Instead remove tarnish by first wiping the silver with a liquid polish or soft cream polish like Mr. Metal using a soft cloth. The baby diapers you never threw out are excellent for this purpose.  If you’ve kept up with your silver, polishing gloves work really well for touch-ups. A soft toothbrush works well in the crevices where oxidation has gotten in and contributed more to the design than you want (read TARNISHED it). If you’ve been lazy and the silver is black, you might need to spend a lot of time and elbow grease or eventually send it out to a pro to remove the oxidation. As Nashville silver dealer Bruce Shelton says, “There is no free lunch in the silver cleaning business.”

Some polishes rquire you rinse the silver. This is a good idea if you're cleaning flatware or vessels which hold food. Some polishes, like Mr.Metal, don't require rinsing and allow you to wipe off the residue with another clean cloth. Now that you’ve cleaned and dried your silver, you can display it and wait for the compliments, or store it in Pacific Cloth, airtight drawers and you can use those tarnish strips (3M makes them), charcoal or camphor. Never wrap silver in plastic or collect it with rubber bands, as these will cause chemical reactions you don’t want. If you have flatware and serving pieces and hollow ware that holds food, be sure to remove salt, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon or you will get discoloration. Then polish, polish, polish!

I hope this has short course been instructive in caring for silver. Again, there is no free lunch when you are trying to remove tarnish on silver. Good luck and stop procrastinating. Start polishing! You'll be glad you did.