Collecting can be a truly enriching experience but as the catalogue grows your innocent hobby can become detrimental to the inner harmony of your home. No self-respecting collector wants to keep her treasures boxed up, so how are you going to display all that stuff?
The heirloom hutch might be an obvious choice, otherwise, many older homes come equipped with mantles, lintels, and ledges but in the case of fine silver antiques, I must warn against all of the above. According to Pamela Wiggins (about.com) certain types of finishes and even some types of unvarnished wood emit vapors that “cause an adverse chemical reaction with silver, which can lead to heartbreaking damage.”
Furthermore, prolonged exposure to moisture can catalyze the tarnishing process. According to Ken Arnold, the author of Caring For Your Collectibles, silver should be displayed in an environment where the relative humidity is maintained at a level of 45 - 50 percent.
Enclosed cabinets with glass shelves and glass-fronted doors are ideal display cases (like those you can see in use over at Nelson & Nelson Antiques). They offer the best viewing privileges while also providing protection and some potential to control your collection’s exposure to tarnish-inducing humidity.
With just a little organization and a bit of understanding we can all get the most out of living with an antique silver collection.
But no matter how nice your display looks, just be sure not to lock your silver away until the end of time. Keep in mind that antique silver artifacts were designed for everyday functions. Regular use and subsequent cleaning creates the sheen, sometimes referred to as patina, which sets old silver apart from its ersatz modern-day relatives and makes the collection of silver antiques a truly rewarding pursuit.