Caring for Silver and Other Metals

Caring for Silver and Ohter Metals

Silver should positively gleam. On the dinner table it should capture every flicker of candlelight. All metals need to be cleaned and cared for regularly. Here are some tips for looking after your prized silver pieces and antique metal objects.

Silver should not be overpolished. use elbow grease, but do not rub unnecessarily. When you must polish a piece, use a nonabrasive foaming paste cleaner, applied with a sponge. Use a cotton swab for hard-to-get-at areas. These cleaners are light and wash off easily. I always feel the conservative approach is the best, so I would avoid the silver dip method.

Rinse off the foaming paste polish and use a soft natural-fiber cloth-well-washed terry cloth or linen, for example-or a paper towel to quickly dry the piece and bring up its shine. Pieces that have just a touch of tarnish discoloring their surface can be washed in warm soapy water instead of polished. Wash one piece at a time and dry each one immediately.

When washing silver tea and coffeepots with wooden handles, be very careful because water and wood are natural enemies. Wax the wood with a good beeswax to seal it before you wash. Try not to immerse the wood in the water at all. If handles become loosened, have them repaired by an expert. Extra care should be taken with knives since the handles and blades are usually glued. Hand washing is a must.

Be very careful when washing pieces such as candlesticks that have baize or felt on the bottom. Don`t immerse in water. Instead, hold upside down and let the water run over 95 percent of the piece.

Sulfur in the atmosphere is one of the chief causes of tarnish on silver. There are many ways to store silver, all based on keeping pieces out of the air. Many people use special silver bags with zippers or lined siver chests, which is fine. But the method I like best is putting each piece in its own plastic bag. This way you can look into your storage area and immediately see what`s there.

Use heavy-gauge self-closing plastic bags, the kind with the zipperlike closure. Make sure a piece is completely dry if you have just washed it before putting it in the bag since moisture also causes tarnishing. Press out as much air as you can before closing. Never use a rubber band to secure plastic bags around a piece of silver. They have sulfur in them, and this will penetrate the wrapping material.

Dust your silver pieces no more than necessary. Dust has grit in it, and so dusting can scratch the surface of any metal, destroying its lovely patina as you work on it. Such patina results from proper use, not abuse, such as careless cleaning.

When dusting, gently work from top to bottom of the piece. Make sure that the dust is off completely, not just rearranged on its surface. Use a very soft brush such as a watercolor brush. It should not be used on other objects. You should have a separate brush for each group of antiques that you dust to prevent transferring residue from one object to another. All of these brushes should be kept clean by washing them often.

Never polish or wash bronze. The patina on a bronze object might easily be damaged or lost forever by overzealous cleaning or rubbing. Brass, copper, and pewter shoud be cleaned gently with good specific celaners made just for that metal. Each piece may be dusted as needed, washed in warm water with mild soap, and dried immediately. All repair and restoration would be done by experts.

This article is taken from Barbara Milo Ohrbach book titled Antiques At Home.