How To Shop & Care for Antique Silver

What's the best way to treat your silver? Use it! Reid Dunavat of Doyle New York at Antiques Roadshow to get the scoop on how to collect and care for antique Southern silver.


-To wrap the south silver seems to be something that, if you're lucky, you've inherited it or it's such a prominent part of every dining room and dining setting whenever we do table settings and things. -We have seen a lot of silver enrichment today in fact, probably the line for the silver table here today is as long as any of the lines in any of the other cities we've been to all summer. And I think silver has played an important part in southern culture. We have cherished it, and passed it down, and it's been a form of stability and tradition, and it's one of those things that are so many stories about, the ravages of the Civil War, and how families buried their silver in the backyards to keep it from being stolen and melted down. So actually, true southern silver made in the south is quite rare. But it's highly collected, and a silver teaspoon made by a Richmond Silversmith might be worth $250 to $500 whereas a silver teaspoon that looks nearly identical made in Philadelphia might be worth $25 simply because of where it is made and the rarity of it. -Is there something- You said it was rather- It's plain, is there some way to kind of identify it? -The marks. -If it is true southern-- okay. -Right. -The way it's marked, the way you tell who- -Right. -And most of the southern makers are documented and you can look them up. -Great. -And that brings up a good question, polished versus unpolished? -Well, the best way to enjoy your silver is to use it because if you use it you don't have to polish it. And what people are afraid of is over polishing and wearing the ornament down and making the silver thin. So that is the best way to enjoy silver, is to use it. However, you should always keep it polished even if you're not using it because tarnish on silver is the same as rust is to iron. And if it stays on there long enough it will eventually deteriorate and ruin the silver. Sometimes you see people having wrapped silver in cellophane and that is the worst thing you can do to it, because with heat and time the cellophane can adhere to it almost like glue and it is nearly impossible to remove. Some people lacquer their silver so that they don't have to polish it, that's also terrible because one's that's on there, you can never get it off. The best way to care for silver is to keep it wrapped in felt and perhaps put some camphor. If you clean it frequently, just mild soap and water is fine rather than an abrasive polish. -Is there any piece that people think is, you know, so, worth so much? That is, you know, a real bust? -Asparagus silver is one of the most popular things that people collect, and they're-- Sort of look like a big flat shovel, and they're kind of interesting. So that's one of the most expensive pieces of silver when you're parring a rare piece for a pattern, because it's not something that everybody would have had. -Is it a better investment to go old silver versus newly made silver? -Old, it's always a better investment to buy old silver simply because silver on the secondary market is very affordable. You can buy a wonderful set of late 19th to early 20th century silver for as little as, you know, $25 per piece. The auctions are the best place. I mean you can always go to replacement services and matching services to buy pieces that are missing from a set, if you find yourself buying a set that's missing some things. But you always get a much better bargain by buying a setted option.
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