Monday, August 3, 2009

Fetish for Flatware?

Here’s a picture of shelves in the closet where I store flatware. Collection or fetish? You decide!

The chests contain vintage sets of silver flatware. Most are silverplated which, to me, is just as beautiful as sterling, and can be had for very reasonable prices these days. I inherited a couple of sets, but most have been purchased via eBay or at estate sales (on the second day of course, when prices are better!). I think of plated flatware as being akin to ladies having good quality costume jewelry. It’s not the very best, but it offers a variety of styles to fit the mood and the outfit (or tablescape!).

I’ll go ahead and admit that I use stainless flatware for everyday; that’s what’s in two kitchen drawers --- one set from Ross for constant use, and a set of Oneida from Belk for “once-in-a-while” (the better set doesn’t do as well in the dishwasher … pieces come out with spots that have to be wiped away with a soft cloth).

I love the richness of silver as it reflects the colorful hues of flowers and the warmth of flickering candlelight. Stainless flatware has come a long way, but the color generally has a cool, slightly bluish cast. Silver, whether it’s bright, shiny, and new or softly glowing with the patina of age and loving use, makes any dining experience feel several degrees more special.

Shopping tips and warnings:
· When shopping for vintage silverplated items, be very cautious of heavily tarnished pieces. Dark tarnish can hide plate loss and scratches.

· If you notice green spots or rusty-looking areas that are rough to the touch, avoid purchasing the piece. It can’t be successfully polished.

· There’s what I think of as an “oil on water” look of bluish and brownish colored areas, but with an underlying shine/glow showing through. That usually indicates that the silver pieces will be beautiful after polishing.

· What’s generally referred to as “patina” is a fine network of tiny scratches (from years of use and polishing) that blend together over time to form a soft sheen. Once the process has taken place, it can’t be reversed except through professional polishing. That’s really only an option for sterling pieces, since the layer of silver on plated pieces is only a few microns thick.

· Avoid using liquid tarnish removers. They emit an unpleasant odor of sulphur whenever they come in contact with tarnished silver. Even worse, they remove the dark lines in recessed areas that make silver patterns beautiful. Worst of all, they can cause a chemical reaction that turns silver pieces white, and the whitened areas are more difficult to remove than the original tarnish!

· My favorite brand of silver polish is made by Wright’s. It’s a cream that comes with a foam applicator. I try to avoid getting the foam pad too wet, because it can cause the polish to get into recessed areas and wash away the darkness that enhances the patterns. If you’re into being “green,” you can use soft cotton cloths to wipe away the polish and tarnish. Otherwise a paper towel works (try not to rub too vigorously if you want to avoid tiny scratches and maintain the factory shine).

· Don’t put sterling or plated flatware in the dishwasher. It can remove dark patina in recessed areas, and the heat from the drying cycle can loosen the glue used to attach stainless blades to the silver handles of hollow-handle knives.

· If you’re determined to wash silver in the dishwasher (some people do and say it comes out OK) try not to let stainless and silver pieces touch each other in the flatware basket. It can damage the silver. Don’t let dishwasher detergent touch the silver directly.

· Never use lemon-based products to clean silver. It’s corrosive … as is salt. Always empty silver salt shakers before storing.

· Never put rubber bands around silver flatware. It causes a chemical reaction that tarnishes and eats away the plating.

The chest below contains "King Cedric" flatware introduced by Oneida in 1933. Six 5 piece place settings are absent in the photo. They're a few feet away on the table ... waiting to be part of this week's Tablescape Thursday event hosted by Susan at Between Naps on the Porch.

That’s all the silver talk for now. I hope you’ll write and tell me about your favorite flatware, how you acquired it, and how you care for it!


  1. Are you serious, all that is flatware. Oh I think an intervention may be in your future Bill. Either that or a 12 step program for you.
    I have a set of my mothers South Seas with a few pieces missing. Coincidentally my mother in law has the same set. It must have come in the laundry soap box or something.
    Other than that I have a daily use Oneida with some pieces missing. I feel so inadequate. Sigh.
    Looking forward to your Thursday post too.

  2. What to serve with faux Tahitian utensils you asked...why FAUX GRAS of course. Ha, ha I crack myself up.

  3. Thanks for the advise on how to care for silver/flatware. I currently use/own a set of Reed & Barton. I've had it for 3 years and love it. I like that it's nice enough to use on special occasions, but practical enough for everyday use (and this includes throwing into the dishwasher!). I'm so impressed w/your collection and how organized it is :)

  4. You are definetly something else.. I thought I had a "few" sets of flatware, but NOTHING compared to this.. You are very fortunate to have a closet to house your beautiful pieces. Thanks for tutorial on how to care for silver/flatware... I "might" get brave and do a post showing mine and you might laugh yourself silly for an evening.. hugs ~lynne~

  5. Wow! This is an amazing collection. Thanks for the tips on silver care. I'm on the hunt for vintage silver/silverplate. Now I know what to do if I "catch" any! Kathy

  6. As I have too much china, I have too much silver -- besides the three no, four, (two sterling -- two plate) sets, I love the odd bits -- the egg spoons, the pastry forks, the 5 oclock spoons, the strawberry forks (all in patterns which don't match anything but each other)and then the serving pieces -- Victorians had to have a spoon or a fork for every different piece of food it seems and some of the patterns are absolutely stunning -- no matching anything there -- asparagus forks, cake forks, baked potato forks, olive spoons, sugar shifter spoons . . . . it's fun to pull out the drawer and pull out a spoon or a fork to stick in a dish.

    And then there are the napkin rings . . .

    On a quiet or rainy afternoon, there is nothing like polishing silver by hand. I, too, like Wright's for my flatware.

    I don't think you have a "problem" -- I think you have a love and it is nice to get pleasure out of our things.

  7. Oh my goodness, you are a silver connoisseur!

    I am ashamed to admit to you that the only truly good silverware I own was given to me by my grandmother when I got married (it was the sterling silver she picked for herself and my grandfather when they were married) and I don't know much about it, but now you've got me curious, I'll have to do a little sleuthing!

    Very nice collection!
    Very helpful tips!
    And once we get an empty nest (IF we ever get an empty nest) I will engulf myself in the finer things life has to offer!
    All the best,

  8. What a wonderous collection you have! (I'll say it's a collection/fetish) ;-) I love the way you compared plated flatware to good quality costume jewelry; as I have a collection/fetish of good quality costume jewelry. (mostly it's vintage though) Those are fantabulous tips when looking for silver flatware, thanks for sharing, great post!

  9. It's a collection, Bill!! I should really look around for silver. That might be my next collection.

    Great informative post! Thank you!!

  10. You are certainly knowledgeable about silver! And you have a lot of flatware! I may catch up with you one of these days, as Tablescape Thursday has me on the hunt for pretty things for the table. I tell you that thing is an addiction!

  11. No no, you can never have too much! I hate polishing the stuff, but I love to look at it. Good for you, I can't wait to see more. Great tips..I am enjoying your blog very much.


  12. I had rather have too much silverware than not enough!!! You definitely have a nice fetishy "collection"!

  13. Bill... you wouldn't believe how timely this post is for me! I have some vintage flatware purchased at a flea market which I had no place to store... it's been is a container for a few months now, and is beginning to tarnish. Then I bought some Wright's cream a couple of weeks ago, but wasn't sure if I should use it on the vintage flatware. Then I found a beautiful wooden flatware box at Goodwill for $2 last week. Now, I do only have the one box, and only one set of vintage flatware... but after cleaning it tonight with Wrights, the silver will be stored away, protected in my wonderful bargain box!

    Thanks for the post and the inspiration!

  14. OK- it looks like I've met my match.
    What an amazing collection. Some day you need to photograph all those boxes with the lids open!


  15. You are definitely the Flatware King! Sounds like there are a few FW Queens out there in competition though! I feel so deprived, I only have two sets and some odds and ends of stainless! :-( I did have a set of sterling (Silver Surf by Steiff) that I gave to my daughter when she married eight years ago. It's more modern and since I remarried and have a set of Old Country Roses china that doesn't go with the silver. I also gave her my fine china that is plain eggshell with a platinum band (I'm try to think of the name of it - it's by Castleton.)

    Thanks for all the interesting info! I always enjoy your posts! I'm planning a tablescape again too! (I don't think you saw the one I did last week.)


  16. Hi Bill,

    No you can never have too much of anything.
    How very lucky!
    Thank you for telling about the Silver cleaning polish. I use that horrid smelling liquid and will try and buy some of the Wrights.
    Good to learn, things like this.


  17. Ok, I couldn't help but see Lori's commment and that was funnnnny! Hee, hee. I LOVE all your silver...I covet your there...I said it. :-) My fav. silver polish is Hagertys. I've been told it's the bomb. Then one day I call the most expensive silver shop in alllll of Buckhead and asked them what they use...Hagertys. I, also, like that it comes in liquid or spray. The spray is great for getting into the hard to reach areas...however, don't breathe that stuff. My lungs did not like it...for two days they didn't like it...but it works. I'm going back to read more of your post...lots of great tips!

  18. I love your silver storage! what a collection, you can never have too much! thanks for the tips, i have been looking for a new silver polish, i don't believe i have tried Wright's yet.

  19. Silver and Florida do not go well together. When I lived in California I enjoyed polishing my silver, here it was ridiculous and I gave most of it away to family. Luckily, mom had silverplate, which is much more doable here.

    I love your collection, you are so organized!

  20. I just needed to come over to thank you for all the information you left me on my blog! That was great and I really appreciate it!

    Also, the Pink Bunny drink is very easy to make:
    No matter how big or how small a drink you want (I made pitchers full!), it is equal parts Peach Schnapps, White Creme de Cacao, and Light Cream over ice. Very delicious, but very filling! In the future it will be my dessert!

  21. Bill,I hate to think this is a fetish,so I'm going for collecting. Or a man of just plain good frugal the chair.My hubby Bill...Brought back from Viet Nam, A beautiful gold set of flatware.That was in 69 I believe.My Mother-inlaw has the set.I have no use for it, but I hope she passes it to our daughter.LOL...Marie Antionette

  22. Hi Bill! You do have quite a nice selection of flatware to choose from!! I have only recently discovered the joys of silverplate and I would agree with you. I fell in love with a monogrammed child's fork in the "Vintage" pattern by Rogers Bros. and the hunt began! I didn't know Wright's made a foam. I've been using the cream for years. A very informative post! Thanks!...Debbie

  23. (Mouth hanging open) I know very unlady like!!
    I agree with you about silver plate. Also I will look for the foam!

  24. Hi Bill:

    I was just wandering around your blog and realized that I had never seen this post. It's so cool to see all of your sets of silver. I agree that I don't think you have a problem (says the lady with so many sets of china she can't count them). It's something that you enjoy and makes you happy. There are a lot worse things we could be doing!

    I have 3 sets of sterling (one my mother-in-laws, another one from my husband's family's side, and a small but beautiful set that was my grandmother's). I guess I have 2 sets of plated from my mom's side, neither very big sets. And lots of unique groupings: a set of strawberry forks, ice cream spoons, an unbelieveable fish set (hmm need to get that into a post), a pearl handled set; and a ton of serving pieces (both inherited and collected).

    I know you usually set a formal table, more in keeping with the silver and silver plate. I do that as well, but tend to set more informal tables and therefore have many sets of stainless.

    Great to chat about our collections! Can't believe I missed this post.

    - The Tablescaper

  25. I LOVE it that you have such an extensive collection of flatware! It's not a least not in a bad way! :-) I, too, share a love for it (and dishware, and stemware, and...!)and have everything from posh to playful. My favorites are probably the Royal Danish sterling my mother recently gave me, the "Danish Princess" silverplate she also gave me, and my Hampton Silversmiths "San Remo" stainless. In summer, I like to use lots of fun, kitschy stuff. I do like your idea of stacking all the storage chests on shelves. Those must be some sturdy shelves!!!