When the weather turns chill, I love to polish up my silver for a stylish soup party in the dining room. But despite even the best intentions, antique serving pieces, whether found at a flea market or handed down from family, deteriorate with time. Silver can dull and surfaces can pit, often leaving heirloom-quality pieces bound for scrap. Sometimes, all they need is a good cleaning, but for items with more extensive damage, skilled craftspeople, trained in the art of restoration, can preserve cherished items and the memories they bring.
Take the collection pictured, which I found at Scott Antique Markets in Atlanta. I loved the curled leaf shape of the basket, but the silver finish had worn through. The copper pot, which is Scottish, was corroded in parts and unusable for cooking. A coin silver ladle was wafer thin at the bowl. Three pairs of spoons (making a set of six) caught my eye, but their monograms were black with tarnish. I paid $300 for all¬—not bad if you consider that new pieces would have cost hundreds more.
Antiques add character to your table or buffet, and thanks to the help of two restoration companies, mine have never looked better. Dan and Beth Walker of North Carolina’s Oexning Silversmiths stripped the silver-plated pieces to their base metals; removed dents and pits; and then buffed, polished, and replated them. As for the pot, coppersmith Jim Hamann of East Coast Tinning retinned the lining so I could cook with it safely and then buffed and polished the exterior. Many metalsmiths will provide estimates from photographs. Restoration is an investment, but a prized piece or a family heirloom, treasured again, is priceless.
Once you have your pieces back looking new, take care to protect your investment. Gently wash silver-plated items in warm, sudsy water, dry immediately to avoid spots, and then store in anti-tarnish bags. Polish them regularly with a nonabrasive cleaner such as Weiman for silver and Peek for copper and brass. Lastly, remember that the more often you use your antique serving pieces, the brighter and more beautiful they’ll stay.
Designer: Eddie Ross; eddieross.com.
Wall paint: Tropical Bay (5001-3C) by Valspar (valsparpaint.com), available at Lowe’s stores; lowes.com.
Runner fabric: Ciro (2008173-12) in Orange/Red from Diamond Baratta Design by Lee Jofa (leejofa.com); available through DCOTA; 954/921-7575.
Napkins: Chevron dinner napkins in Seafoam; sferra.com.
Candles: 9-inch Elegant Taper in Cinnabar; creativecandles.com.
Silver restoration: Dan and Beth Walker, Oexning Silversmiths, Bakersville, NC; oexningsilversmiths.com.
Copper restoration: Jim Hamann, East Coast Tinning, East Greenwich, RI; eastcoasttinning.com.