Salt Spoon – Vintage Silver & Salt

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Salt spoon

Can you see my salt spoon peeking out from under the lid of the container with the white salt?

Using your vintage silver seems to come with all sorts of dire warnings, a few of the “should nots” that I can think of are:

  • dishwasher
  • salt
  • mayonaise
  • eggs
  • tomatoes
No doubt there are many other substances on the forbidden list.  No wonder silver is seem as finicky and delicate – what can you do with it if all these things are so threatening? Continuing on the theme begun in last week’s post about my dishwasher status update, it struck me that perhaps a bit of testing on some of the other commonly accepted commandments of silver use might be useful.  And again, to show I have some skin in the game, my 1802 salt spoon has had an extra workout for the last week.

Salt Spoon – Salt and Corrosion

Let me be clear – salt will damage your silver if the two are left in constant contact. I’ve seen some beautiful salt spoons and salt cellars ruined by salt corrosion.

A number of questions have come from blog readers, Twitter and Facebook friends about salt and silver. Some people have been so concerned that they are worried about what will happen if they leave the silver in the contact with the salt overnight.

While there is no doubt salt will damage silver the question is how much time will it take for that to happen

Overnight, a week, a month, six months….

The photo above is the salt/oil/vinegar station by my stove. Because my salts are kept in containers with lids on them, normally my salt spoon rests on top rather than actually in the salt. I like the lids more to prevent stuff from getting in the salt rather than to protect the salt spoon.

In the spirit of scientific experimentation I have left my favorite salt spoon (well it’s really a mustard spoon but the size is really convenient for cooking purposes) in the French Fleur de Sel for a week.  The choice of Fluer de Sel was arbitrary, obviously the salts have different chemical compositions – hence the color variations if nothing else – which most likely would have some effect on the outcome.

When I get 4 more silver salt spoons made in London, 1802 I’ll be glad to conduct a more rigorous experiment including having a control that sits on the glass lid ;).  For now we’ll have to make do with this simpler version.

I choose a week because that seemed a reasonable length of time, either to go from one Sunday dinner to another or to account for one of those “oh, I meant to put away the salt spoon, but I’m exhausted and have just gotten into bed” moments.

Experiment Results

salt spoon

before....

salt spoon

during...

salt spoon

after...

Well, after a week plunged in the salt, my salt spoon looks no different that it did the week before.  Even when I checked it using my loupe, I could see no trace of any damage.

It has now been washed (yes, in the dishwasher) and popped back in it’s usual resting spot on the lid of the salt.

Again, while you absolutely should not keep silver and salt in constant physical contact, it is not going to cause a problem in the short term.  Just wash and dry your silver as usual after use and enjoy!

PS

Lead in Silverplate – this link is to an FDA bulletin about leachable lead in domestic and imported silverplate.  The short version is – Yes, some pieces of silverplate do have lead used in the base metal component. The bad news is that especially with antique or vintage pieces, it’s not always possible to figure out which pieces have lead in them. So be cautious about using silverplate that is worn through, or serving acidic food that can extract lead even through intact silverplate.

My understanding is that it’s analogous to lead crystal – short term contact is ok, but prolonged and repeated is not. Personally speaking when dealing with health issues, in this instance, my threshold for what constitutes “long and repeated exposure” on the very short end of the timescale. I do not keep any liquid in a decanter or glass for longer than the length of time I am actively using it (during dinner for example).  If I do not know the composition of my silverplate I use a barrier – some parchment paper, a doily, etc. Better safe than sorry.

PPS

So you have any suggestions to add to my list of don’ts for silver?  I’m already doing a mayo experiment for next week!

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