Silver is a gorgeous metal that is used in a variety of ways — from jewelry to candlesticks to tableware and much more. However, unlike gold or other metals, silver tarnishes easily and requires a bit more maintenance than other metals to keep it looking beautiful. Whether you have a sterling vase or a pure silver tea set, you likely want to display these items and keep them looking good as new. But what’s the best way to care for your sterling or antique pieces, to keep them in good condition? If you’re thinking about buying a sterling vase or any item made of antique silver, what should you know ahead of time? Why is silver a good investment? We’ll cover these questions below, so be sure to read on!
Why Invest in Silver Pieces?
Silver is one of the oldest commodities, with the first signs of silver mining evident in Turkey and Greece around 3,000 B.C., per the Royal Society of Chemistry. Furthermore, in at least 14 different languages, “silver” and “money” are the same word, which shows the level of value placed on silver. Silver also turns up in a variety of forms, like jewelry and family heirlooms, which can also increase value, if it’s been passed down through the generations.
Because silver is also a precious metal, it holds natural value. Silver is also an item that has a low turnover rate, which means that more silver must be mined regularly to meet demand. On an industrial and investment level, demand continues to go up, while the supply decreases, which makes it even more valuable. This drives the price up, making it a good investment, especially because silver bullion tends to be less expensive to purchase than gold.
What Do I Need to Know About Caring for Silver?
The biggest risk of owning silver is having tarnished silver. If you’re actively using your silver (such as a sterling vase, silver plated tea sets, etc.,) you should wash it directly after you use it with hot, soapy water. Make sure it’s thoroughly rinsed and dried, otherwise you risk spotting. Never put your silverware in the dishwasher.
Storage is also important to avoid tarnish, since it occurs through chemical reactions in the air. Storing your silver in flannel or soft cloths (like cotton) is the way to go — don’t put it in plastic wrap or cardboard boxes. Silver should never be wrapped in newspaper. You also will want to keep silver away from high humidity or heat — try to keep it as temperature controlled as possible.
You want to keep it from things that will scratch it (yes, even a scratchy cloth can do that!). If an item is pure silver, it’s at risk for scratching easily, because it’s too soft — that’s why jewelry and tableware are usually made of sterling silver, which is more durable.
Also keep in mind that it is possible to clean silver too much — it can be abrasive — and sometimes a beautiful patina adds a gorgeous sense of age to a piece.
What Should I Know About Sterling or Antique Silver Pieces?
You can identify 19th and 20th century sterling silver by the number 925 or the world “Sterling” engraved somewhere on the piece, whether you’re checking a sterling vase or sterling candlesticks. Sterling silver isn’t pure silver, but an alloy made of 92.5% silver (hence the 925) and 7.5% copper, though other metals can be substituted for copper. It’s also more durable than pure silver and less expensive, though can also tarnish easier. It’s best to use microfiber cloths for cleaning — and if needed, hot, soapy water.
Antique silver pieces can fetch a nice price if you’re talking to silver dealers, but they’re often family heirlooms or hold sentimental value. You should treat your antique silver pieces with all the care described in the first section — make sure they’re kept polished, dry, and in low humidity!
Don’t be afraid to have some beautiful silver pieces on display in your home! With the right care, you can keep them looking brand new.