Especially during autumn months filled with intimate dinner parties and holiday feasts, your table is a creative canvas where you can display the silver treasures you’ve gathered over the years. The tradition of Fine Dining is once again au courant, and more of us appreciate a beautifully set table. Discover the lasting beauty of fine antique table silver. I call silver the “Jewelry for your tabletop.”
When I was asked to write about table silver for the October Issue of Romantic Homes Magazine, I gathered some of my very favorite antique silver pieces from my shop and had an autumn photo shoot to display them in all their glory.
I admit that usually I am more inclined to use soft, romantic shades of flowers in my arrangements here at home, but for these photos, the golden yellow roses mixed with autumn russet alstroemeria seemed so fitting.
Arranged with fresh eucalyptus clipped from our front garden, and those delicate chamomile petit fleurs, I think it’s the perfect compliment to the antique silver sugar bowl I placed them in.
Silver, sterling or plate, closely associated with elegant dinner table settings, has a history that goes farther back than the gleaming silver we remember from our childhood holiday table. In fact, the tradition of sitting down for an enjoyable meal with family and friends dates back as far as civilization, but dining tables were not set with silver until the early 19th century.
During the Renaissance knives were the only utensils used during meals, along with a wooden spoon. Forks were introduced as early as the 11th century, but were extremely controversial, scandalous, and considered heretical, not gaining widespread favor in Europe until well into the 18th century.
It wasn’t until the 1800’s that dining came into “the gilded age” and silver for the table was plentiful. Wealthy hostesses of the 1800’s set their tabes with lustrous silver serving dishes, and a bewildering assortment of flatware. A single place setting at a formal dinner might have included at least eight different forks, eight knives, numerous spoons, a butter pick, game shears, nut picks, asparagus tongs, and salts.
I love the fun of having each napkin wear its own, different gleaming collar or bracelet. Antique and vintage napkin rings gleam in the light of your dazzling chandelier and candle light.
What to Collect:
Collect what you love and appeals to you, a glorious mix of bowls, tureens, ladles, and silverware that pays homage to your personal style. Mixed in with what you already own, these elegant luxuries add glamour to your table’s setting. Collectors love sterling silver, as it keeps its value. But a collection of silver plate will bring just as much beauty to your table.
Elegant, sophisticated and long lasting, silver serving bowls, domes, and flatware elevate any setting to party status. We have a great advantage over our ancestors in that we can enjoy the beautiful silver pieces they did, but we are not stuck with their rules. While our grandmother would never mix and match place settings, or combine antique silver with contemporary dishes, today we enjoy all the charm antique silver brings to our table free from those rules.
What to Look For:
Quality. Become familiar with high quality. Sterling is almost always marked, either with the word STERLING or the Lion Passant. Do your research, you can find most sterling maker’s marks on the internet. Most plated silver from the 1800’s is marked Quadruple Plated. If you love a piece and want to use it for serving, but it is corroded inside, consider having a silversmith replace the interior.
Style. Opt for designs you love. Pieces with a logo, monogram, or beautiful hand chased floral engravings add charm. It doesn’t all have to match, if you love it, it will work together.
Condition. Buy silver in good condition. I suggest you buy silver that has been polished, especially silver-plate, that way you can see how much loss to the plating there is. Some loss is fine, but most of the silver should be there. Do remember these pieces are often over 100 years old, and will not be perfect. That’s part of their charm.
You can start enjoying antique silver in small ways, perhaps you are fortunate enough to have inherited your grandmother’s silver, or received the gift of a set of six spoons. Set your well-appointed table with pleasure, it will bring people together and provide comfort as well as joy.
Fun Fact: Silver is toxic to bacteria, viruses, molds, fungi, spores and other unpopular micro-organisms. A spoon made of silver naturally fights bacteria and viruses.
Do you like to polish your silver? Or are you one of the many who love the patina of unpolished silver at your table?
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