Antique Silver Care Information & Advice
What you need to know about silver to keep your precious items looking there best.
Silver is the most lustrous of all metals with its brilliance and reflective qualities & its ability to mature with age.
Silver of old has aged like good wine & with items dating back over 400 years comes patina, a shade only painted by time.
Silver is a joy to behold, use your silver, that's what it was made for. New silver and antique silver will discolour over time in two ways, one is called Patina and the other Tarnish. New silver polished has a lighter shade than antique silver. Indentations, creases, corners take on residues & create deeper shades subsequently enhancing detailing in antique silver. New silver can be enhanced in a similar way by the use of Liver of Sulphur which we use to create similar shades as time has not benefitted the piece as yet.
Patina should not be confused with Tarnish, new silver cleaned and polished is a different shade to antique silver of several hundred years old. This is due to what is called patina. Patina is a deep lustre "the colour of sunrise over a horn thorn hedge lightening the morning mist" which is created by time, use and polishing. In addition patina on antique silver helps confirm its age & its history visually & also financially.
Tarnish is oxidisation which can be easily be mistaken for patina by the lay person. We have cleaned many period pieces of silver over the years, some that was virtually black in colour, this black residue is known as tarnish, silver oxidising with the pollutants in the atmosphere over time. New silver or antique silver will both oxidise & tarnish, but this can easily be cleaned. Tarnishing can easily be removed by none abrasive polishes & creams along with impregnated rouge cloths.
What you need to know about looking after silver
Have the right equipment for the job "Don't be penny wise, pound foolish" Your silver is precious & it will reward you many times over. Get the right products & take the advice for a lifetime of pleasure.
Bleach & Other Detergents
Bleach is a product that your silver should not come in contact with. If left submerged in this solution, your silver would turn black. If a period piece, this would destruct the patina that has created such a lovely shade of colour on your silver antique. The only remedy is to finally remove the surface pollution by re polishing, this would have to be performed by a silversmith such as or selves. Never put your silver in a dishwasher, this again with the strong detergents could turn you precious silver black as above described by the effects of bleach.
Over Polishing Your Silver
Silver is a soft metal, with over excessive polishing, you are removing a fine layer of silver every time. If you silver is of fine surface detail, polishing excessively will result in the crisp features being worn & eventually lost, especially in antique engraving and hallmarks. Many antiques over a period of time have lost engraving detail & definition of hallmarks, over polish has made a silver antique unrecognisable in whom & were it was assayed. This doesn't mean don't polish your silver, but gently & occasionally is the key and bear in mind the detail.
Abrasive Cloths & Cleaners
Never use abrasive cloths & cleaners. Your silver goes through many sequence of polishing to become that bright lustrous finish. Items such as scouring powders & pads should never be used, they will instantly scratch the surface and dull the shine. Dirty cloths should also never be used on silver, keep your silver cloths bagged up in polythene bags and marked up as cleaning & polishing respectively. If by mistake the inevitable has happened, don't panic this can be retrieved by professional re polishing by ourselves.
Prepare Your WorkspaceMake sure your surface is covered with a soft cotton cloth to lay your silver on, Silver can easily be damaged from sharp edges & dropped on the floor causing expensive repairs. Silver will give you a lifetime of joy and reward you with an investment that will only go one way, up. Silver with age takes on a lustre called patina, please read our paragraph relating to this.
Handling Silver – Use Cotton Gloves
Cotton gloves are must when handling new or antique silver. Finger marks can mark silver, although smooth to touch, your fingers will scratch the surface of the silver if moved across the surface. Finger marks will also leave grease marks that will eventually stain the exterior.
Certain fabrics such as new linin will leave scratch marks on silver. Rubber gloves also are not to be used to handle silver, sulphur is a composite additive that will stain the surface.
Silver with food stuffs & liquids. We recommend that after using items such as silver cutlery, silver cream jugs etc. that they are washed as soon as possible in clean warm water & dried immediately. This will help to prevent water stain from washing & foods from staining & pitting due to acidic acids in foods such as salad dressings, juices & salts.
Silver Candlesticks & Candelabras
Silver candlesticks are a beautiful acquisition to ones dining room, snug or lounge. Wax obviously falls onto the silver & sticks. Clean candlesticks will help prevent the wax sticking to a degree that removal is easier. To remove the wax, leave your silver candlesticks in a warm room, or a sunny location to warm the wax slightly. Then with a blunt cocktail stick, pick the wax from the surface. Do not use sharp metal knives or implements as this will damage & scratch the surface of your silver candlesticks or candelabra. Do not warm the wax on the surface with an electric or flame heat source as many old silver candlesticks or candelabras are filled with what is a combustible material.
Open Coal Fires & Gas Fires
As lovely as it may be, a coal fires along with gas fire are not friends with silver. Both give of fumes known as hydrogen sulphide. This will react with the silver surface & cause the tarnish that discolours the surface of your silver. We once had a presentation cabinet in a building with silver enclosed behind glass. This in a matter of weeks had to be re cleaned & polished back to its original state, a lesson learned.