The ongoing task of keeping silver beautiful is certainly epitomized in the job of polishing. When I pull out my formal service flatware to prepare it for a meal, I relish the moment as I clean the gorgeous detail of my set. Through our years in fine antiques, we have found flatware to be a showpiece of art for the dinner table.
Whether your table boasts a timeless pattern like Kings, the elegance of Grand Baroque, the stylish lines of Georg Jenson’s craftsmanship, or the robust weight of James Robinson’s work, there is polishing to be done!
Gather some rubber gloves, three towels you will not mind getting stained, and the polishing agent of your choice. For regular cleanings, use a gentle polish like Hagerty’s purple cream polish. Although this polish does not omit as many fumes as other polishes, you will still need the room to be ventilated as you clean. If you are cleaning a set with severe tarnish or pitting, you will likely need a stronger polish. If you have mother-of-pearl handles, research any cleaning products you are using to make sure it will not damage the nacre.
Use one towel to make a padded surface on your counter (folded over a several times), a towel for drying, and a dry towel to rest your flatware on until the silver is completely dry. Using hot water and a soft rag or sponge, work through your set, first removing the tarnish, then rinsing with hot water and immediately thoroughly drying with a towel. Let the set rest in the open air, laid out on a towel for a few hours (or overnight if you have knives with any separation between the blade and the handle where water may of seeped in).
Things to look out for:
- Never bundle your silver with rubber bands or plastic wrap. Over time, they will fuse to the silver.
- Fully dry your silver before storing it. Any left over spots of water sitting on your flatware may cause pitting.
- Sponges are a safe tool for silver cleaning. Be careful not to use anything with a grain or courseness that could scratch your silver.
- We would not recommend using silver dip on flatware with any type of relief work. It will take the polish out of the recesses, making the pattern appear flat. That being said, we have had to use the dip when cleaning certain severe cases of tarnish.
Polishing a very large set? A little known secret is that the lemon scented Soft Scrub cleaner quickly polishes silver. It is a bathroom cleaner that has small grit in it, so I choose to only use it on my silver plated pieces that do not have large open areas , such as cartouches. Test a small area first to see if you like its results.
Once you have finished, break out the bonbon spoons, cake breaks, and butter picks! It’s time to eat!