Nothing shines so brilliantly as a beautiful piece of silver. It feels extra luxurious to use, even in the most casual of settings. While we don’t have a set of real sterling silverware, we have a few pieces among which are small silver bowls and a tea set. The classic French onion dip and potato chips are elevated tenfold when served from silver footed bowls! You can find silver plated pieces relatively easily at resale and antique shops, so even if you don’t have a real set of silverware (my dream is to find an heirloom set!), a small collection of plated servingware will give your table a fancy finish that reflects the glow of candlelight.
Whether sterling silver or silver plate, silver must be cared for properly and this material has its own set of rules. Firstly, as gorgeous as it is, it tarnishes over time when exposed to air. Silver pieces on display (like my Champagne bucket here) need to be cleaned about every other month. Secondly, storage is important. Silverware often comes with felt or cotton pouches which protect from scratches and delay tarnishing. My silver plated bowls came with felt drawstring pouches that I store them in. I also have a large silver ice bucket (for holding bottles of wine) that I keep in my entertaining closet. I keep it in a large plastic bag to seal out the air so that the few times a year I use it, I don’t need to spend an hour diligently polishing it. You should never go to bed after a dinner party before at least rinsing off any silver piece that touched food. Any acid could permanently damage the silver if left overnight. Silverware can actually be washed in the dishwasher, it just must be completely separated from any stainless steel pieces of flatware so that they don’t interact in the wash cycle. If you’re handwashing, use a soft cloth or cut-up t-shirt to clean and dry; a sponge or bristle brush is too abrasive and could leave scratches.
Polishing silver is very easy. Cape Cod metal polishing cloths come in a pretty metal tin and are reusable. I prefer these cloths to traditional silver polish or paste because they are just a little less messy to use. Whatever polish you use, wipe down the surface of the silver with a polishing cloth or a soft cloth dipped in polish and take care to get in the crevices and any engraving. Once thoroughly covered, rinse the item under warm water and wipe with a t-shirt or soft cloth to remove the polish under running water. Immediately dry with a soft cloth and store in a cotton or felt pouch or sealed in a plastic bag.