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Collectible Sterling Silver Metalware

Silver is an elemental precious metal. Collections of this metal could include a modest piece inherited from a grandparent to many different items of great value. This malleable metal can be made into everything from coffee and tea sets to serving bowls to flatware and even baby rattles.

What is sterling silver?

Silver’s purity is called its fineness, and sterling silver, or sterling, is 925 fine. This means it is 92.5 percent pure silver with the other 7.5 percent being copper. Copper needs to be added because the pure precious metal is too soft for every day use and too soft for the rich ornamentation that sometimes comes with antique and vintage collectibles.

Are there other types of silver?

There are other types, but only 925 fine is sterling silver. Among other types of this precious metal are:

  • Plate: This is a layer of silver on top of a base metal such as brass.
  • Venetian: This is an alloy that contains silver and nickel.
  • Coin: This was minted after the Revolutionary War.
  • Hotel: This was dinnerware and flatware made for service on trains and luxury liners and in hotels and restaurants.
What sort of foods can be placed on sterling?

Sterling dinner service is amendable to all kinds of food. Acidic and sulphuric foods such as citrus fruits and eggs can be served on sterling plates, but they should not be left on the metal for long lest they dull the shine.

What is a patina?

When exposed to the oxygen in the air, silver does tarnish. It looks permanent, but it can be rubbed off with plain soap and water, a special cleaner or a jeweler's cloth saturated with jeweler's rouge. Some people find the tarnish brings out the vintage metalwork and contrasts with the brilliance of polished sterling. The tiny scratches that accumulate on metal that has been used a great deal is called a butler finish.

How do you polish collectible silverware?

To polish silverware to the point where it really gleams takes polish or paste. You should avoid acid baths because they take too much of the metal off of the piece. Wear white cotton gloves to keep the oils from your hands from the metal. Use a cotton flannel cloth to rub the polish in circles on hollowware or in straight lines for flatware. Use an old toothbrush to clean the marks, monograms, or designs. After the piece is polished, rinse it with hot water, and dry it with a clean cloth.

How do you store silverware?

If the silverware isn’t used regularly, put the pieces in their own flannel pouches. Make sure to add a tarnish inhibitor. Do not store the metal in plastic bags because they trap moisture. If the sterling silver flatware is used regularly, put it in a cutlery tray that is lined with felt or another soft material. Do not use rubber because it can tarnish.

How do you wash sterling silver?

Collectible sterling silver can be put in the dishwasher, but it is best to wash by hand in warm, soapy water. Then, rub the piece dry with a clean cloth. Some people whose pieces have delicate patterns use an old toothbrush, ammonia and chalk to clean them. Even after this treatment the piece should still be rinsed with warm water and carefully dried.