1. Keep tarnish away.
Everyday exposure to sulfur in the air causes silver to darken, known as tarnishing. Humidity speeds up tarnish; regular use helps prevent it. Just wash pieces with mild dishwashing soap and dry with a soft cloth.
2. Polish carefully.
Be mindful of polishing too vigorously over engraved areas. Use a soft cloth and only a small amount of silver polish to remove tarnish, following instructions on the bottle.
3. Be mindful of food.
Salt, coffee, tea, eggs and vinegar-based salad dressing can pit and stain silver flatware and serving pieces. Avoid problems by emptying silver saltshakers and rinsing serving pieces and flatware promptly after use.
4. Handle with care.
Invisible skin oils can encourage tarnish. Wash hands before touching silver pieces, and hold serving ware by the handle. You also can wear tarnish-cleaning gloves, like the one-size-fits-all Hagerty Silversmiths’ Gloves, to touch up the shine and protect pieces from fingerprints.
5. Show it off.
You don’t need a full silver service to enjoy and share your heirloom tableware. Choose a few teaspoons or dessert forks to use often for dessert or coffee. Serve cool summer drinks on a silver tray.
6. Store in silver cloth.
Silver cloth is treated to help prevent tarnish, letting you get your table set with minimal cleaning and polishing. Simplify storage with a zippered silver cloth buffet drawer insert (such as Hagerty’s) with built-in slots for knives and a place to stack forks, spoons and serving pieces. You also can buy silver cloth to make your own storage pouches.
7. Just say no to plastic.
Forget the old wives’ tale about plastic protecting against tarnish. In reality, antiques experts say, wrapping silver in plastic can cause permanent pitting.
8. Don’t hide the glitter.
Use silver as a decorative accent throughout your home. Display gleaming platters on your fireplace mantel. Use a silver tray on your dresser or vanity. Repurpose small silver tumblers as vases for nosegays. Bring out silver-plate frames to give special photos a place of honor.
A version of this article originally appeared in the March/April 2019 issue of Family Tree Magazine.