Living with Vintage Silver | Use, Enjoy, Clean, Repeat

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sterling silver in the dishwasher, how to clean silver

Living with vintage silver. Sterling silver to the left, everything else to the right. Don't let the silver touch anything other than silver.

“Aren’t you afraid you’ll ruin your silverware?” asked a reader after reading my silver experiment posts.*  My unequivocal answer was “no”.  Living with vintage silver is a joy to be savored not a burden to be avoided.

While my silver spent time covered in mayonaise, onions, salt and tomato soup I really was never concerned that I’d ‘ruin’ it. Ruin is such a serious word…it implies destruction to an extent that I could never use it again.

Honestly the worst I expected was some serious tarnish, especially after the onion experiment.  But those of you who read the post know I was astounded and disappointed by the results.

Not mint does not equal ruined

What this question really reveals however is a fundamental attitude towards signs of use on silver.  As I’ve said many times before, silver is not meant to be mirror bright and shiny.  It should acquire patina – that soft, grey sheen that comes from use and care.

Furthermore, when something does happen – a dent in a bowl, a spoon is bent out of shape, even on the odd occasion that something gets caught in the disposal – it is not a calamity.

Just because silver is no longer cosmetically mint doesn’t mean it’s ruined. Even truly broken pieces can be repaired. I’m having a spoon put back together right now.

Living with vintage silver inevitably means it will acquire bumps and bruises, they are part of the story.

Don’t be taken in by the blindingly bright silver seen on PBS television series.

‘Tragically, a large amount of 18th century silverwares have had their definition severely impaired by overzealous butlers and cleaners who used abrasive cleaning agents in the attempt to keep their silver sparkling.” – John Bly, author of Miller’s Silver & Sheffield Plate Marks

Silverware was made to be used…it’s meant to be functional.  So get your silver out.  Living with vintage silver is an opportunity, so use it, enjoy it, put it in the dishwasher and repeat.


* The ‘experiment’ posts:

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One thought on “Living with Vintage Silver | Use, Enjoy, Clean, Repeat

  1. BevNo Gravatar

    If the worst does happen to a piece of silver flatware– don’t forget that it can often be rejuvenated. I sent a knife with a ruined blade to Replacements’ repair department and had it back with a new blade in 2 weeks at a cost of $10! They do wonderful work!

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