Keep Calm and Wait for Carson

carsonWe have a guest blogger this week!  My mom, Carol Cassone, who has been obsessing over storing her silver for years.  She finally tackled that closet and did an unbelievable job (just like the mother of a professional organizer).  Really, she just wants to make sure that when she is gone (not for a long, long time), I know the history behind each piece of her silver.  You will want to read this funny and informative post!  Here is a picture of mom with her 97 year old dad (grandpa is wearing the sweater) and his friend during her recent visit to see him in Louisville! Thanks for the post Mom!

Oh, wouldn’t it be lovely to have a Mr. Carson from Downton Abbey manage the cleaning of ones silver? But alas, for all the conveniences of this century, we are NOT likely to have butlers who clean and care for our silver. Now that the third season of Downton is over, the reality of the distress in my own silver closet became my winter obsession. Not just because the pieces I have are tarnishing to gunmetal black again, but the sense that I really wanted to clean them for the last time, and leave my girls with a little bit of history of each item. I fear they would do a drop off at Goodwill if they were to come across the mess of odd silver serving pieces in their current blackened state.
Here’s how I approached this project and what I learned along the way.
1. Cleaning of the Silver. I was dying to try out a Pinterest post on cleaning silver quickly in your sink. The directions on a repin, said, De-tarnish ALL your silver all at once …line your sink with aluminum foil, add 1/2 C table salt, 1/2 C baking soda, fill with hot water, then dump in all your silver. Let sit for about 30 minutes. The tarnish all transfers to the foil. If you do this, and yes it does work, make sure the water is steaming hot water and that the pieces each touch each other and the foil. Some articles say 5 minutes, and others 30. I found I needed 30 minutes on my highly tarnished things and that there was still some tedious hand polishing that needed to be done on the pieces. It was a “fun with chemistry” project though and kickstarted my rather large task. (Photo from Susan Branch on Pinterest)
A quick internet search gave me some helpful information: Weiman Royal Sterling Silver polish and Twinkle silver polish were the top rated polishes by Good Housekeeping. They also advised to store silver in anti tarnish silver cloth bags or wrap in acid free tissue paper and seal in zipper topped bags.
The Martha Stewart site did recommend the aluminum foil sink method, but added only the baking soda with boiling water.
I also found a very comprehensive site on all things related to silver … Not only does this site tell you how to clean and store silver, but he has the websites for ordering Silver cloth and anti-tarnish strips. This site is so comprehensive, he even lists places to sell or appraise your silver and a guide to reading the hallmarks on your silver. The FAQ’s on this site will blow you away. He’s a bit cool on the aluminum foil sink method – does not fully recommend it, and has a rating on most all the silver polishes on the market. He abhors Tarn-X.
2.Silver Cloth Covers –  You probably are familiar with Silver cloth. It’s what the lining of silverware drawers are covered in and in which many fine silver dealers will wrap your silver piece. As my husband collected silver over the years, we got silver cloth bags with the name of the jeweler on the bag. Over the years, I had not put the pieces back in the bags, and most of the pieces we had did not even have silver cloth bags. I purchased brown silver cloth from Ebay and bought the least expensive at $9.99 a yard ( When you cut silver cloth it does not ravel. This made it easy to cut the cloth and stitch up the sides on a sewing machine with a 6 inch or so overlap in a size that would fit each piece. Large trays took the most cloth. I used pinking shears on the outside flaps or places where the edge would show.
3. Labeling the Silver – Once it’s covered in silver cloth, you can’t tell what the piece is of course. So I photographed each piece. Then I bought inexpensive 4×6 photo albums from the dollar store ( It’s Dollar Tree where everything is a dollar), and cut out each page. Each photo page allowed me to put a photo of the piece on one side and a 4×6 index card on the other where I could write a description of the piece, any markings it had and my comments about the piece. In that comment section, I wrote where we had purchased or inherited the piece, how I had used it, and gave them a heads up that it was older and valuable or that it was an ordinary 20th Century piece, or a red star if it was actually sterling rather than silver plate. I used ribbon to tie around the silver cloth, punched a hole in the index card to run the ribbon through before tying a bow to secure it. These labels should make it easy for me to reach for the right piece that I may need now, while still keeping them in an anti-tarnish cloth. I also quickly photographed the index cards with my IPad in hopes that the ICloud will store those photos as a record of the inventory of silver that we have. I used the small pictures that a photo proof sheet provided to staple to the index cards so that the cards also had a photo of the piece for our records.
20/20 Hindsight – I like silver cloth, but after reading about wrapping the pieces in acid free tissue paper and putting them in large zip locks, I think that is probably a much easier and less costly method. You can then put anti-tarnish strips in the bag with the piece. The best advice I read from the site was to never let a piece tarnish. Wash it in “no lemon” Dawn dishwashing detergent, and use your silver every day . You know Lady Grantham does:-)


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