“Vintage silver!”I frequently hear from casual browsers at a show, followed quickly by “I don’t know how to clean silver?” or “I can’t be bothered, it’s such a pain to polish.”
My reaction is always two-fold. First, I’m always sad when I hear this. Second, I generally blurt out “use it”.
In my opinion, people fall into two camps.
There are the “save it for a special occasion because it requires too much polish and care” people. On the other, less populated, side of the fence are the “I use it all the time” people.
Unsurprisingly, I fall into the “use it” category. In fact, the more time I spend at estate sales, the more I want to use pieces in my personal collection. It may sound a little macabre, but as I find hidden treasures at sales – often tarnished to the point where the piece looks like a charcoal briquette – I think to myself, you saved this for best and now you’re dead. What’s the point of having these things if you’re not going to use them?
After spending a long time polishing, I find that it barely shows any sign of use. OK, so not only did it get saved for “best,” but “best” never happened. How depressing.
When you use silver, it acquires marks and signs of use. This is not a bad thing (and a topic for another day!!). I firmly believe the people who designed and made these marvelous pieces would much rather they are used and enjoyed than sit for 50 years in a closet.
The secret joke about vintage silver and sterling flatware is that the more you use it, the less you have to polish it.
I use mine all the time. Granted, I don’t advocate letting your children use your sterling spoons to dig in the dirt, but use it. Sterling flatware feels wonderful to eat with. The metal warms to the touch so quickly, it is a real pleasure. As for how to clean your silver, with the exception of knives and other pieces that have a glue join, I put it (I can hear the howls of the purists already) in the dishwasher. (Never let it touch any other type of metal, though.)
Like you, I’m a busy person and hand washing is not going to happen in my house. Is this optimal treatment? No, but never using it is simply unthinkable.