If you’re the fortunate owner of an heirloom silver set, perhaps it’s time to take it out of the drawer and mark a special occasion by sharing family history as you set the table. With a little time and careful handling, you can bring back the luster of old silver. You can have Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie and her heirloom fork to eat it with, too.
A. Fine china, silver and crystal fall in and out of fashion like ladies’ hemlines, but the glorious sparkle of polished silver always makes an occasion extra special. Unfortunately, silver reacts with hydrogen sulfide in the air and surrounding materials, resulting in tarnish. Tarnish doesn’t harm the silver, but overzealous polishing of this soft metal can obscure engraved designs.
Working with six to 10 pieces at a time, place flatware gently into the soapy water and use a soft sponge or cloth to wash the individual knives, forks and spoons. Rinse in warm, clear water and dry immediately with a soft cloth (water spots speed tarnishing).
You can identify sterling silver manufactured since 1868 by a 92.5 stamp, showing it complies with the silver content standards the United States adopted that year. Coin silver is usually 90 percent silver and 10 percent copper.
Southern coin silver is especially collectible today because of its rarity. A shortage of silversmiths, wartime plundering and economic hardship all took their toll on Southern family silver.