Believe it or not, whether you inherited them from a family member or received them as wedding gifts long ago, those intricately decorated silver pieces were meant to be used. With regular and proper care, most silver pieces will stay beautiful for years and years so you can enjoy them for holiday gatherings, bridal showers, and other occasions where you want to dress up the table for your guests.
Tarnish: Curing the Culprit
Many people shy away from collecting and using sterling and silverplated wares due to a fear of tarnish without realizing they can make an effort to avoid it. What's the most common culprit when it comes to tarnishing that pretty silver? That's an easy answer: humidity.
The ideal level of humidity for storing and displaying silver, according to Caring for Collectibles by Ken Arnold, is 45 to 50 percent. Since most of us don't live in museums, it won't always be possible to maintain a constant humidity level. Making an effort, however, to keep silver out of unusually damp environments such as attics and basement will certainly help if you live in a damp climate.
Tips for Storage to Avoid Tarnish
If you're storing silver in a display cabinet, camphor blocks can be added to help prevent tarnish, but don't let them actually touch the silver pieces. Special anti-tarnish papers and cloths containing activated carbon or silver salts can be placed in display cases as well. You can purchase these items from jewelers or department and specialty stores where new silver pieces are sold.
There are also special anti-tarnish bags you can buy to place individual pieces inside. While these do work for the short term, you'll probably still have to do a little polishing here and there when you take the pieces out to use them. It won't be nearly as extensive as if you hadn't taken any measures to prevent tarnish at all, however, so it's worth the effort.
To learn more about cleaning silver and silverplate, continue to page two. To learn more about storing and displaying silver, continue to page three.