Displaying Vintage Silver: A Reader’s Questions

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Displaying Vintage Silver

Just use it! Make Every Day Best.

Displaying vintage silver is an appropriate holiday topic, so I thought I’d answer this question which recently came in from a reader. So this post will stray a little off-topic and have a confession and a disclaimer thrown in for good measure.

(Confession: It’s beyond thrilling to know that there are readers out there!)

The Question

Hi Nancy,

I’ve been enjoying your blog and website immensely!

I’m writing to request attention to a particular topic. I’d like to display some lovely pieces when they’re not in use. Most might be thought of as being in the “hostess gift” category–a carving set, serving forks/spoons, and the like. I plan to give a friend a large soup ladle as a gift later this month.

Can you suggest a graceful way to display such items? What can you do when the item doesn’t stand up by itself? How can the handles or the shape be shown to best effect?

Thanks for your blog and your response! Lynn

An Attempted Answer

First of all, thanks for visiting Silver Magpies and reading my blog. Second, I need to insert a disclaimer here…I’m not an interior designer or decorator.  I have a strong personal style but that’s it 🙂 So your question is a little tricky, but I’ll give it a go.

What’s your guiding principle(s)?

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” from the oft quoted 19th century textile designer William Morris.

“Less is more” and “God is in the details” from modernist architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

The first time I discovered those aphorisms was in the early 1990’s, they immediately struck a chord which has continued to resonate and evolve.

Displaying Vintage Silver

The marriage of form and function in such quotidian objects is what draws me to silver in the first place. So I think of “display” as a subset of how I’m going to use a piece.  Every day objects like the forks and spoons in the photo above are on display because they are too beautiful to hide away in a drawer, and freely accessible because we use them all the time.

For pieces that are not basic every day items, like the soup ladle in your question, I’d urge you not to hide it away. Serving pieces and hollowware almost always have gorgeous curves and fantastic detail that are worthy of display. Place them somewhere that you can easily view your favorite attribute.

Ladles are a favorite of mine because of the lovely silhouette the long handles create. Simply placing one on a table or sideboard let’s you admire those features. If you really want to keep them upright, perhaps they could be placed in a tureen or even a large clear glass vase. I deal with tarnish by using the pieces as often as possible and when not in use I run over them every couple of weeks with a soft rag.  This is often enough to keep the tarnish at bay.

Behind Closed Doors

Personally, I’m not a fan of glass fronted cabinets…but that might be an occupational hazard as I see too many of them become prisons for the pieces inside. Tucked away safely behind glass doors because they are not to be used unless it’s for “best” and best rarely (or often, never) comes.  So the vintage silver/china/crystal stays there unused.

Having said that, a great friend has her pieces in a glass fronted cabinet (actually several) and she sees them as a great way to store her pieces and easily be able to see at a glance what needs to come out and play. It works for her.

Find What Works for You

Collecting silver is a nice hobby, but actually using it is inspired living. Accessibility is my primary criteria for displaying silver, because I believe that silver should actually work.


Glass fronted cabinets? Yes or no??

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4 thoughts on “Displaying Vintage Silver: A Reader’s Questions

  1. IvetteNo Gravatar

    I believe I am that friend! Yes, you know how it is. That glass cabinet isn’t really my style, but it was my mother’s and I have so many memories of special dinners and that cabinet. My house is small, as you know, and the cabinet is now in the living room and it displays everything that is beautiful and meaningful to me. Beautiful silver (most from Silver Magpies, the BEST!) an antique dessert service (Christmas gift from husband), my friend’s grandmother’s vintage glasses, some art. So many things, and they come out to play all the time. Also, I love being able to look at them whenever I like. I am all for displaying your silver and using it as much as possible. I also have glasses in the kitchen filled with vintage silver cutlery that we use all the time. It really is interesting how you use things more if you see them all the time. I suppose that is just human nature.

    Great question and great response!

    Happy Holidays to all and enjoy using your beautiful things with loved ones…..

    1. SilverMagpiesNo Gravatar Post author

      Ivette –

      I’m so glad you recognized yourself this time. The old cliche “out of sight, out of mind” really is true.

      What we both agree is display it however *you* like best, just make sure that it’s display does not become a permanent exhibition. Think of it more as being on loan 🙂

  2. LynnNo Gravatar

    Thanks for your response, Nan! I appreciate how you put the question of display in a larger and more meaningful context.

    I vote yay on glass-fronted cabinets. I have a “stockholm” style cabinet from ikea; it’s mostly wood, but features a rather moderne design with a round glass porthole window that suits my style. Also, with lights inside, I figure a glass-fronted cabinet is a good low-humidity option.

    Thanks again for your great response. Lots to think about!

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