Saturday, January 28, 2017

It Will Last A Lifetime... Sterling Silver Flatware

Long ago in a galaxy far way, nope wrong story, but those sentiments may seem that way to many. It wasn't too many years ago, and perhaps one or two generations, but sterling silver flatware was not quite as uncommon on some dinner tables as it is today.


If we think about items which hold their value and can be passed from one generation to another, items made of silver are one of those pieces. In the 18th century, silver teaspoons were much more common today, and sometime the only silver found within a household. By the very nature of the metal, silver, they had value beyond the utilitarian nature of their form.

In the 19th century, and into the 20th century, silver flatware (utensils used at the table for eating and serving food) sets became more elaborate, with specialized pieces for all sort of specialized food items. It was quite common for brides to register for silver flatware and be given place settings as wedding gifts by close family friends.

This ended during the social upheaval of the late 1960s, when some women rejected the traditional, and made more difficult when silver prices spiked in 1979-1980, which cause a rise in silver prices and further marking the decline of silver flatware in homes.

In this day of the appreciation for fine dining, both in restaurants, and also in the gourmet kitchens in modern homes, there is no better way to appreciate food that with silver flatware. Why? Because unlike stainless, it affects the taste of food much less, allowing you to enjoy the pure flavors of food, unlike stainless.

As an added benefit, there is the fact that silver, unlike stainless can and is passed down from generation to generation. For those who are concerned about recycling, there is no better way of doing so than passing down items which require no refabrication to ensure they are used again for their intended purpose by a new generation.

Some complain about the high maintenance costs of using silver, but that only happens when it is not used and contrary to many opinions, silver can be placed in the dish washer. And the more often you use silver, the less of a chance for it to tarnish. Tarnished silver is inactive silver and anyone who wears silver jewelry will attest that the more they wear it the less it tarnishes.

According to Beverly Bremer Silver Shop in Atlanta, Georgia, "washing silver immediately after use helps prevent tarnish. Tarnish is caused by sulfides from food, contact with rubber or smoke and gas in the air. If food is left on silver for periods as short as one hour, it can stain sterling. Be especially wary of foods such as mayonnaise, vinegar, and eggs. If you cannot wash your sterling immediately after use, rinse it thoroughly, but do not leave to soak."

They go on to say that "most sterling flatware, except for knives, may be placed in the dishwasher. For best results, remove flatware before the drying cycle begins and dry throughout with a soft, cotton cloth. When you use the dishwasher for cleaning, use a mild, non-citrus detergent, do not overcrowd the flatware baskets, and take care not to place sterling in direct contact with stainless steel. Do not dry on a high heat cycle."

They further recommend the "use of a soft cloth, mild detergent, and hot water to clean silver. Avoid all citrus detergents as they can cause rust spots on silver handles and blades. Never use abrasive pads or steel wool to remove debris. Dry silver immediately after washing with a soft cloth to prevent water spots. Avoid placing silver on hot surfaces such as heating elements, or near open flames."  

Regarding knife blades they state that "the blades of sterling silver place knives are made of a harden-able grade of stainless steel. This grade of stainless, while resistant to most foods or chemicals in the home, is subject to pitting under certain conditions. The conditions that most commonly cause pitting are long contact with chloride-containing foods such as salt, salad dressing, etc. or soaking in water.
Prolonged soaking (i.e. overnight) in water must be avoided especially where several pieces may be in close contact during the soaking period. The “rinse and hold” cycle on an automatic dishwasher is particularly hard on cutlery because the pieces are warm and wet for an extended period of time. Best care for your cutlery is to wash and dry as soon as practical after using, either by hand or on a fast cycle in the dishwasher."

Yes, silver costs more, but so does organic foods and craft made anything. It is not just an investment today, but it is an investment in the future.

You don't need to buy a whole set all at once, but you can buy a piece at a time, seeking out vintage sets. Or you can be creative, avoiding an entire table set with the same pattern, and pick pieces and services you like, mixing and matching vintage and antique to create a unique table setting, while at the same time "recycling" flatware in a way only silver can "recycle."

So don't give up on silver flatware as a thing of the past, unsuited to modern living, explore it as a new way of living with a nod to our past and the craftsmanship of another generation, still adaptable to today's smart living.