Starting a Collection of Vintage Silverware

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Is sees everyone I meet or know loves browsing antique stores and places and has started a collection of some kind. And, as someone who frequently goes "antiquing" I can tell you, vintage silverware pieces have become popular and are relatively easy to find.

Maybe you've thought about collecting a few pieces to serve with or would really like a complete set for special occasions. Whatever the case may be, it's helpful to know a little bit about vintage silverware (flatware) and what to look for when purchasing pieces. Consider the following when buying:

-Sterling Versus Silver Plate

Setting a table with sterling silverware was a sign of wealth in Europe, England and early America. Only within the last century, with the advent of the electroplating process (silver plating), has it become an affordable luxury for the average family. Silver plated pieces are what you will most likely find. These pieces will have the maker and the company name, and terms such as: "A1" or quadruple plate "on them. Sterling silver pieces are rarer and are marked only with the maker's name or initials on them.

– Choosing a Pattern

If you're going to try to accumulate enough pieces, (several place settings) from a particular pattern you especially like, then you're more than likely going to face a challenge. There are hundreds of styles, and patterns as well as many makers of flatware. It may be wiser to take the mix and match approach. This is a good way to put together a set of vintage silverware. In the end you'll have a service that is both practical and visually pleasant, when arranged on a table.

-Variety of Eating Utensils

From 1870 to 1920 the popularity of silverware was at its peak. Flatware makers made up to 100 different types of pieces for a particular pattern. During this time, the Victorian Era, dinner was an elaborate event which sometimes held eight or more courses. Dinner began with a soup course, then a salad course, then a fruit course and so on. Consequently, as you forage through stores, looking for patterns you like, you will not only find forks, spoons and knives but may also stumble up beautiful demitasse spoons for coffee or even rarer, terrapin forks used for eating turtles.

– Appearance and Authenticity

As you scour antiques stores for vintage silverware you'll inevitably find pieces which have been repaired. This usually does not hurt their appearance but may reduce their value. On the other hand, slight signs of wear will not reduce value. However, try not to purchase extremely tarnished pieces of silverware. Often tarnish will hide damage and imperfections. Also, be aware that many times flatware pieces have been altered to make them appear rare. For instance, spoons are sometimes cut to resembble ice cream forks or have been pierced to look like sugar separers.

– Caring for Vintage Silverware

Once an investment is made in vintage silverware in is a good idea to do everything possible to reserve the beauty and value. After eating or serving with vintage pieces always clean them thoroughly. Then, store them in a dry place preferably a silver file or drawer. Cover pieces with soft cloths to prevent tarnish. When it comes time to polish, use a non-abrasive silver polish and soft polishing cloths. Again, wash and dry thoroughly.

If you're seriously considering building a collection of vintage silverware then educate yourself. There are books available on collecting silverware. Check your local library and bookstore or go online and Google the words "antique silverware" for sources. Also, I recommend shopping at more established antique businesses. There you will find a better selection and sales people more knowledgeable about their inventory. In the meantime have a ball rummaging through aisles and stalls in antique stores andalls, searching for beautiful patterns of vintage silverware.

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Source by Shari Cabra