I was recently cyber-ogling the beautiful silver collection presented online at the Victoria and Albert website when I happened upon their very useful pages on cleaning and caring for silver. Vicky and Al recommend first swabbing the surface with methylated or white spirit to remove grease and dirt, and then gently rubbing a silver cloth over the item to remove any remaining tarnish.
Now, obviously, this is what the museum pros use, and if you’re anything like me, fumbling around a studio apartment with a bottle of fondue fuel may not sound like the best idea. If you prefer to use a polishing cream, my dear friends at Nelson and Nelson recommend Wrights Silver Polish.
Now, what caught my attention was this additional warning from the V&A: stay away from silver dips! “Silver dips can seem like an easy alternative to polishing. However, they remove the corrosion products by chemical action and tend to over-clean. They remove all corrosion and can leave the surface looking 'lifeless'. Since they react with the silver component of the silver corrosion product, they can also attack the silver of the surface of the object. Removing residues can be difficult because you need to avoid immersing objects in water. If there are any lead solder repairs on your piece, silver dip will turn them black.”
Overcleaning a silver piece with ornate surface detail, like this lovely Gorham antique sterling silver water pitcher in the renowned neoclassical pattern “Maintenon,” will remove all tarnish and leave the piece looking lifeless. For more information on the pitcher and its availability, click here.
Now if you’re in no mood to tackle silver cleaning yourself, remember that Nelson and Nelson handles every facet of cleaning and repair, as also replates worn silver plate items.
And dears, whatever you do, and whatever terrible pinch you may find yourself in, never, ever, polish silver with toothpaste!