Debunking Myths about Household Silver.
Do you long to have a table filled with shiny flatware, gleaming platters and candelabras? Concerns about upkeep, expense or use holding you back? Check out these 7 Myths about Household Silver.
Myth 1 – It’s expensive
Well, sure. There’s lots of expensive silver out there. Would I love to have the set of Tiffany sterling flatware ($4589) that I saw in an antique shop a few years ago? Yes, definitely. Do I? No. Or at least not yet.
Does that matter to me? No. Because there are tons of gorgeous, inexpensive (even cheap, if you know where to look) pieces of silver items out there just waiting for a home where someone will love them and use them.
Consider these trays – I’m pretty firmly of the camp that says anything looks better if you put it on a silver tray. But trays are expensive! Some of them are, but lots of them are not. I bought all of these trays at consignment stores, anitique shops and ebay. I don’t think I paid more than $30 for any of them, and many were quite a bit less than that. Are they in perfect shape? Not really, but for now, they serve me well, bring me joy and are in my budget.
[image of trays]
Are they fine pieces? Again, nope. There was a short time in the 20th century when silverplated everything was common and mass produced. Seemingly every newlywed couple had piles of silver serving trays, napkin rings, even canned cranberry servers. Guess where most of that inexpensively mass-produced stuff is now? Thrift stores, consignment shops, “Antique” malls and ebay or etsy. The great news is that it’s pretty cheap and a lot of it is in great shape because how often do people use a server for canned cranberry sauce? If you’re the kind of person who answers “All the damned time!” then you’re also probably the sort of person who invested in upgraded pieces and your things probably won’t end up in a Goodwill. But for lots of mid-Century Americans, the answer was “basically never”. Hence barely used and in pretty good shape. And while there are some wonderfully specialized items, there’s also plenty of basic, flexible pieces just waiting for a new home and new life on your table.
Myth 2 – Its hard to care for
Is caring for silver, whether plate or sterling, more work than stainless steel or ceramic? Somewhat, sure. Is work that can be minimized with a little preparation and strategy. Absolutely. Is it worth taking a bit of extra time to clean and polish silver in order to enjoy it all the time. Well, I definitely think it is, and if you’re reading this, you probably are, too, or at least you could be.
Be realistic about how much time you really will give to caring for pieces, and then decide what that means for you. It might mean you enjoy using silver flatware once or twice a week, but you’re not interested in having to clean, polish and store serving dishes and platters. Or vice versa. It might mean you’re not willing to take extra time on a weeknight but that you ARE willing to put in some extra time for Sunday dinner.
Start small with something that appeals to you, and see how your feel about it after a few weeks. Are you finding the upkeep burdensome? That’s ok, time to reevaluate what you’re using and/or how often and find a new option. The goal of Big Splendor isn’t to turn your life into an endless drudge of cleaning and polishing, it’s to find ways to fit some sparkle and fuss into your life in a way that enhances and enriches.
I have some silver plate serving dishes that I enjoy. But I don’t enjoy having to clean and polish them all the time, so I only break them out when I’m feeling a bit more festive. I have them, and I use them but I don’t force myself to get out every bit of finery I have every time I set the table, either. It’s ok to pick and choose.
Myth 3- I need a whole set of matching pieces
You may be the sort of person for whom that is true. If you’re going to be deeply bothered by an assortment of patterns or pieces, then you will probably derive more joy from waiting and assembling a set of “your” pattern. That’s totally fine.
If you are the sort of person who likes the idea of a bit of mixing and matching, then read on. I think this is a line that every person has to decide for themselves. For me, I want all of the main flatware to match on the entire table. I am fine with some of the auxiliary pieces, like demi-tasse spoons or berry forks being their own pattern and style. I am also fine with my serving dishes and utensils being their own. However, I try to choose pieces and patterns that all work together, even if they’re not the same stamp. You might like the idea of a completely mix and match table top, in which case, go for it! I would only advise trying to ensure the basic dining utensils are at least comparably sized, since it can be a little weird if your knife, fork and spoon are significantly off-scale. Otherwise, go nuts. Your table will be unique and interesting, and you’ll have a lot more flexibility with both purchasing and using pieces.
Myth 4 – If I can’t afford sterling, it’s not worth bothering with plate
Well, really. This might be true, to a certain point or for certain people. But one could also make the same argument that if you can’t purchase sterling of a certain age or manufacturer, it’s not worth bothering. There’s certainly cheaply made silver plate out there that really might not be worth buying, but that’s because it’s poorly made, not because it’s plate.
This is another line you’ll have to draw for yourself, but my opinion is there’s nothing wrong with silver plate. There are many lovely, beautiful pieces available, of all ages and styles. The quality and workmanship of an individual piece is much more of an indicator of value or worth than whether it’s plate or sterling. Remember, Tiffany made silver plate items. Bottom line – if you like it, and it’s of a good enough quality to hold up, buy it, use it and love it. I wouldn’t suggest buying poorly made items or items in barely usable condition, whether they’re plate or sterling.
Keep in mind, too, that one may aspire to sterling (hello!) and still enjoy a set of silver plate flatware for “right now”. It’s generally pretty inexpensive to pick up 6 or 8 silver plate settings, and you can use those while you work on your sterling collection.
Myth 5 – I don’t have any where to store it
All right, you’ve got me here. At least to a point. I can’t advocate buying or acquiring things if you’ve truly not got a place to keep them. Splendor can’t flourish in clutter. And silver does have some basic requirements for storage and upkeep, so you can’t just shove it anywhere.
But keep in mind that you may be able to find a few clever storage solutions, and your only option for storing silver doesn’t have to be a speciality chest, cabinet or closet (though, those are all peachy – I long for a proper silver chest, myself)
For example, you can stash flatware, which nearly always comes with a storage case, under a dresser, bed or even under your couch if need be. Larger items can be put in an anti-tarnish bag or wrapped in anti-tarnish cloth and stored in a tote. Just make sure the tote is stored in a cool, dry place – if your basement is climate controlled, that’s an option. That is especially useful for larger items you don’t use all the time – platters, punch bowls, big serving pieces.
Don’t overlook simply “storing” a beautiful bowl, tray or platter as part of your home decor. Yes, you might need to polish it a bit more often than if it was stored in a tarnish resistant area, but on the other hand, it’s lovely to enjoy your silver every day.
Limited space or lack of safe storage places might mean you have to be selective about the pieces you choose to have but it doesn’t have to mean going without, either.
Myth 6 – My silver is an heirloom, I dont’ want to damage it
Fair enough. A lot of silver or china has been passed down through at least one or two generations, and it would be sad to lose a piece to accident or improper care. I myself have a large collection of silver plate flatware, china and glassware that came from various grandmothers and grandmothers-in-law and I would be very sad if anything happened to those pieces.
You can certainly choose to keep special items stored away. That most definitely increases the liklihood they’ll survive another generation. But what you are keeping those treasures for if no one is ever allowed to enjoy them.
Consider if the piece in question was already used and loved by one generation – if so, then odds are good it’s already got a few dings or scratches on it – you may as well add your own story to it by using it on your table. At the very least, don’t let fear of damaging something hold you back from using it and making new memories. Learn how to properly use, clean and store the piece in question – do a bit of research on the maker, age and materials, and that will tell you a lot about what care the piece will need.
. The piece of wedding silver Grandma used regularly and cared for is probably in excellent shape and well-made enough to handle being used. On the other hand, if a piece was used heavily or cared for improperly, then it might be in too fragile condition to use. But it’s been my experience that a lot of the “good stuff” that gets handed down has been but lightly used, for fear of damaging it, or out of concern for it’s welfare or uncertainty for how to care for it. Silver can also take a bit more abuse than fine china or crystal, too, so it may be the perfect starting point for bringing some of your heirlooms to the table.
This is a totally subjective matter – only you can and should decide if a piece simply means too much to risk it on the dinner table. But I would encourage you to find ways to use your heirlooms – not only will you have lovely pieces for your table, you’ll be connecting with your ancestors, maybe even creating new memories among the younger generation of “great-grandma’s silver”.
Myyth 7 –
People will think I’m ridiculous for using “fancy” stuff.
If this is indeed the case, consider finding new friends who won’t laugh at you or judge you for shaping your life to your own liking. Seriously. As the internet says “ain’t nobody got time for that”.
Ok, some less dramatic advice – if you’re concerned you’ll come off as fussy or pretentious for breaking out the silver or china, start small. Use it for dinner at home with yourself or your spouse/partner/roommate – someone who is cool and supportive and won’t make fun of you. Test it out. Have a few meals with a fancier table setting. See how it feels. Repeat until you feel totally comfortable, bored, almost.. The goal here is to get you to a point where this is all normal for you. If it’s normal for you, then you’ll feel more confident about stepping up your dining game with friends or family. If it’s normal for you, you won’t feel like you’re “showing off” by using fancy table stuff.
And I really do mean it. If your friends or family are lousy about you wanting to set a nice table for them, and you care enough about them to keep them around, then sit down with them and explain why this appeals to you and why it’s important to you. Odds are quite good that they’re intimidated by it and it’s often easier to mock something than confess it’s put you off your game. If they understand that you’re motivated by a love of splendor and a desire to make gathering with loved ones a little more special, they’ll be jerks for not going along nicely and appreciating the time and effort you’ve put in.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to find reasons not to do something. Using or having silver is no different. If you’re afraid of it or if you’re worried about it you’ll avoid it. There’s a workaround to nearly every issue here – it may take time or patience or a little bit of extra work, but if itt is something you care about and want to do, you can find a way!