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Ode to Silver Spoons

Submitted by: rurification on June 9, 2011
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Ode to Silver Spoons

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Graduate school is hard. And long. And in the end, it’s not about your field or your topic; it’s about diplomacy. This was my idea of diplomacy: ‘That’s a dumb idea and I won’t do it.’

I had a lot to learn about …

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silver spoons in bowls CITR


Graduate school is hard. And long. And in the end, it’s not about your field or your topic; it’s about diplomacy. This was my idea of diplomacy: ‘That’s a dumb idea and I won’t do it.’

I had a lot to learn about diplomacy.

I did learn. Now, this is my idea of diplomacy: ‘Hmm. What an interesting idea. I need to think about that for a while to really appreciate the nuances of every level. I’ll get back to you.’ Translation: That’s a dumb idea and I won’t do it.

It took a long time for me to learn how to do that.

And in the meantime, I had to do heavy duty research and then write about it. I had to work hard. Research was hard. Diplomacy was hard. I whined a lot.

Then I got into the habit of rewarding myself for all that hard work. Every time I finished a chapter, I gave myself the reward of going to the antique mall and hanging out for an afternoon.

Confession: It’s impossible for me to go into an antique store and not find things that I can’t live without. As in, I will DIE if I don’t get this.

It’s ridiculous. And embarrassing. And potentially fiscally irresponsible.

Since I am not independently wealthy, I kept my purchases small and utilitarian–a hat, a teacup, a china plate with little pink roses, a piece or two of silverware. My dissertation was long and I got to go to the antique mall a lot. In time I had a lovely collection of silverware.

I love silver utensils. I don’t care if they’re pitted. Or if the silver has worn off on the back where the spoon rests on the table. Or if they are monogrammed with someone else’s initials. Or if they tarnish five minutes after I polished them because I looked at them cross eyed or waved them in the general direction of brown rice. I love them.

I love the sleek and stylized designs of the 50s and 60s. I love the rococo curlicues of the late 19th century. I love the art deco angles of the 20s. I love them all.

silver spoons types CITR

Who knew there were so many types of spoons? From left to right these are: grapefruit spoon (with the little teeth on top), sugar spoon, teaspoon, tablespoon/soup spoon, iced tea spoon (very long handle, small bowl), cream soup spoon (very round bowl, some are quite deep), serving spoon, berry spoon (large, egg shaped bowl).

These spoons and their tined and bladed relatives stayed in my silverware drawer in the buffet for more years than I care to admit. I’d use them Some Day, I told myself. In the meantime, they tarnished. I polished. They stayed put. They tarnished. I polished. They stayed put. They tarnished.

Then last year around Christmas time, I got sick of my old stainless and gave it away. I pulled out all the old silverware and decided to use it every day. I washed it all well and I ignored the tarnish. I figured that with regular use and washing, the tarnish would go away – and mostly it did. We discovered that some of the knives rusted, so they went back into the buffet to stay. We discovered that a couple of the teaspoons are for stirring tea only because they are barely strong enough to carry a spoonful of sugar from the bowl to the cup. They went back in the buffet and on display in my old glass sugar bowl.

The rest get regular use at every meal. That old silver loves being used and with every washing it glows brighter.

Here are some things to remember when using old silver:

  • Tarnish is cosmetic only and will not hurt you. Even stubborn tarnish will wear off with regular use. Don’t feel like you have to polish your pieces before you use them.
  • Don’t put your silver in the dishwasher. Most dishwasher detergents contain abrasives and/or bleach which will damage your silver.
  • Wash with a soft sponge or cloth only. Don’t use a scratch pad. Soak the silverware to soften hardened goo and then gently work it off without scratching the piece.
  • Patina is good. That black stuff in the creases and dips of your silver is evidence of years of love. Leave it there. Dipping a piece in tarnish remover will remove all the patina. I recommend against it. Leave the patina.
  • There are many ways to remove tarnish. I use a soft cloth and lots of elbow grease when I polish my silver. A quick Google search for ‘silver polishing’ will take you to several interesting sites with tips and products to use to polish your silver. Silver restorers recommend gentle creams. I have used them with good results. You can find these at places such as jewelers and fine stores that sell silver. Remember, there are some creative tarnish removing tricks out there, but many of them will damage your silver. Try them on a piece of silver you aren’t attached to and wouldn’t mind ruining before you try them on your precious pieces.

Love your silver. It will love you back.

Robin blogs at Rurification.

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Comments

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  1. 6-9
    6:52
    am

    Love your silver Robin. So cool. I have been collecting a few pieces from thrfit store. Love it even more pitted.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Granny Trace
    http://www.grannytracescrapsandsquares.com

  2. 6-9
    11:04
    am

    Hmmmm….I have my Grandma’s silver and my Mom’s too. I love Mom’s Old Master but not my Grandma’s so much. Maybe I should get it out of the attic and start using it because I love silver in general too and I don’t like my stainless ūüėČ

  3. 6-9
    1:09
    pm

    Love, love, love the silver!!! Stainless just doesn’t have the lustre and yes, PATINA, that real silver has! I have used stainless for many years (grandmother’s silver packed away for eldest daughter to inherit), but the main reason I never used it daily is because I remember with small children, it just seems to walk away and disappear! I did use it for awhile, but then found my little son digging in the dirt with a spoon in the backyard. Packed away for special occasions was the only remedy to keeping it! I have some old coin silver of my ggg grandparents, buried during the Civil War to keep the federals from taking it.They did take most everything else. It is almost black from tarnish. I’m afraid to try to clean it–would never use it.
    Stick Horse Cowgirl V

  4. 6-9
    1:17
    pm

    I love this post! Maybe one day I will use mine for each meal. I am, like Stick Horse Cowgirl, worried mine will walk away. (I would love to read the story and see pictures of that Civil War Silver, too!)

  5. 6-9
    3:02
    pm

    I’ve collected many pieces from yard sales and thrift stores for crafty things and have just never gotten around to being crafty with it…I do stick a few pieces in a sugar bowl or 2 and set around as decoration. I should just pull it all together and start USING it!

    Great post, Robin!!

  6. 6-9
    3:03
    pm

    Oh! and what a wonderful way for you to pull yourself learning “diplomacy”…an antique store is a great incentive!

  7. 6-9
    6:02
    pm

    Hmmm…I have a set from my Grandma that has just sat in the basement in the box it came in. It was one of those things that I figured most wouldn’t want and I didn’t want them to be sold after she passes. She was offering them to me so I figured I would go for it. You’ve inspired me to drag them out to use!

  8. 6-9
    9:38
    pm

    Great post! I wish I had my grandmother’s silverware, because I used to have to wash it every day and polish it for holidays. I only have a sugar spoon or two and a couple butter knives of hers.
    I do have my mother’s from the 1940s, but I like the old ornate things much better. I’ll have to start looking for it at the thrift shops; I love your display in the sugar bowls with the chives.
    Is there a website that identifies the old patterns?

  9. 6-9
    9:40
    pm

    Robin, I just noticed I have the very same berry spoon as you! I thought it was a sugar spoon, that’s what I use it for. I love the shape. I wonder what the pattern is called.

  10. 6-9
    9:43
    pm

    My dad worked in the restaurant service industry in some quite up-scale places. He claimed the best, gentlest, easiest silver cleaner was vodka or gin. That may be why I was never ‘allowed’ to polish the silver ’till I was, oh, 16 or 17. I tend to agree, and it makes the chore so much more fun!

  11. 6-10
    8:18
    am

    When I know this board better, I may post my Dad’s story about Chinese breakfasts and polishing silver!

    Thanks for the tip re gin/vodka as a polishing agent, that’s a new one on me and I really HATE the smell of Neverdull.

    Judi

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