Preserving Antique Silver and Copper Serving Pieces
Style expert Eddie Ross gives new life to old copper and silver serving pieces he found at an antique market in Atlanta
Save Your Metals!
Despite the best intentions, antique serving pieces, whether handed down from family or found at a flea market, deteriorate with time. Silver and copper can dull and their surfaces can pit, often leaving heirloom-quality pieces bound for scrap. Sometimes all they need is a good cleaning to revive their luster, but sometimes they may have more extensive damage. Don't throw out these treasures or overlook their potential at flea markets. Take them to skilled craftspeople, trained in the art of restoration, who can bring them back to heirloom-status at a fraction of the cost for new serving pieces.
Seek Professional Help
Believe it or not, but I purchased all of the pieces from Scott Antique Markets in Atlanta and had them restored by some of my favorite artisans. Dan and Beth Walker of North Carolina's Oexning Silversmiths preserved the silver pieces by stripping them to their base metals, removing dents and pits, and then buffing, polishing, and replating them. To bring the life back to copper pieces, I turned to Jim Hamann of East Coast Tinning to make them food-safe and shiny again with a retinned lining and newly buffed and polished exterior.
Before: Restoring the Silver Spoon
These silver-plated spoons caught my eye. Considering how pricey new silver spoons can be, these were a great deal for $300 even though their monograms were black with tarnish.
After: The Silver Spoon
Dan and Beth were extra careful to ensure the spoons' decorative work and monograms remained true.
Before: Reheating a Copper Pot
I couldn't pass up this Scottish copper pot even though it was corroded in parts and unusable for cooking.
After: Copper Pot
Jim retinned the lining to make it food-safe. Extensive buffing and polishing brought the pot back to its intended shine.
Before: Getting a Re-Grip on Serving Pieces
Always on the lookout for unusual antique serving ware, there was no way I could pass up these handsome stag handle servers.
After: Silver Serving Pieces
Dan and Beth restored them just in time to serve fall's yummiest roasted vegetables.
Before: Switching Up Table Accessories
The elaborate etching on these fish servers and table crumber will surely shine through after a little tender loving care.
After: Table Accessories
After a thorough cleaning with mineral oil by Dan and Beth, the pretty bone handles make these the perfect accessories to Thanksgiving's turkey platter!
Before: From Stove-top to Tabletop
This copper lid had lost its pot, but not its potential. Its sturdy handle, round shape, and flat surface are just right for a cheese platter.
After: Stove-top to Tabletop
I took it to Jim, who returned its lustrous shine with retinning, polishing, and buffing, and then Eddie added rubber feet to the lid's bottom.
Before: Silver Basket
Eddie saw through the layer of tarnish to the decorative appeal of this silver basket.
After: Silver Basket
After a thorough polishing from Dan, this tarnished basket now shines bright.
Rescuing the Ladle
Eddie spotted this coin silver ladle at a booth and had to have it. To an untrained eye, the serving piece looked beyond repair. Luckily, Eddie knew that Dan and Beth could return the ladle to its glory days. Here's a step-by-step look into the process at Oexning Silversmiths workshop.
Before the Restoration
The ladle had a gash in its lip and was missing a small area that needed to be patched, as well as years of dirt and tarnish to be cleaned away.
Cleaning and Straightening
Before repairing the lip, Dan cleaned the ladle to remove all debris, dirt, and any old silver polish. Then he painstakingly straightened the piece out to remove any dents in the spoon's bowl and handle.
Patching the Ladle
With the spoon cleaned and straightened out, Dan applied a patch to the missing area to fill out the gash in the ladle's lip. Next, he soldered the patch into place.
Smoothing the Ladle
After a long process of smoothing, filing, and shaping, the new patch is nearly undetectable from the rest of the ladle. With the ladle cleaned, straightened out, and patched, Dan polishes it to its original sheen.
After: Coin Silver Ladle
After all of Dan's work, the coin silver ladle sparkles in its rightful place on the buffet.