Beautiful flatware deserves a little extra attention, so give yours the care that will keep it shining on your table for generations to come. For all types of flatware, try to wash them by hand as soon after the meal as possible; if you are busy with guests, a quick rinse buys a little extra time. Do not hide the flatware away just for special occasions or parties; the more you use your silver, the more richly it glows as it builds up the gentle patina that collectors prize.
The goal for caring for silver is to preserve the patina that develops over time, avoid prolonged contact with anything that might corrode the surface, and remove tarnish as it builds up. So make sure you rinse and wash your silver as soon as possible to avoid the acids or minerals in some foods like egg, vinegar, mayonnaise, salt, or fruits. Hand wash is hot water with a mild detergent, and dry immediately. If you let your silver air-dry, out the knife blades down, so that water doesn’t loosed the bond between the blade and the handle. If you use a dishwasher, you may strip off too mush of the patina and will have to polish more often. Heat can be damaging, so set the machine on cool and remove the silverware before the drying cycle starts. Dry it by hand with a soft cloth.
Stainless means stain resistant, not stain proof. Wash your stainless by hand in a gentle, non-citrus detergent and dry them with the handles up. If you must use the dishwasher, do not use the heat of ‘rinse and hold’ setting, because extreme heat and moisture may loosen the knife blades from the handle. Wait until the pieces are cool before touching them.
Silver definitely improves with use. Over time, your silver will develop a lustrous patina which should not be buffed out. In fact, the patina is so prized that you should rotate your silverware to ensure that all pieces are used a soften as possible. To remove tarnish, use a gentle polish or bath and a soft cloth. Be careful of ‘time-saving’ dips, as they strip off a thin layer of silver. You can use a toothbrush on hard to reach parts, but remember that some darkening will bring out the detail in your pattern.
When your silver is not in use, keep it out of the open air in a treated silver chest, flannel bag, or in a drawer lined in treated cloth. Bailey’s carries a variety of storage bags, small enough for demitasse spoons or large enough for the coffee urn. It’s a useful investment in the protection of your fine silver. Do not store your silver in plastic bags, and never place rubber bands around your silver. It will leave a permanent mark, even if there is something between the silver and the rubber band.
Your silver will become an heirloom to coming generations. Make it even more special by engraving it. In Europe, it was once traditional to set the table with the fork tines pointing down, so old world sets are sometimes engraved on the back. But in America, the custom is to put the last initial of the couple’s name on the front of the handle of the silver. Or put the last initial in the middle, with the bride’s first initial to the left and the groom’s to the right.