Not too many couples register for actual silver these days, it’s true. For most of the world, perhaps it’s because silver isn’t seen as practical or “fun.” For lucky Southerners, though, it’s because we know we’ll inherit our mama’s or grandmama’s collection one day, so there’s no need to register! Whether or not you stand to inherit this pretty metal, it’s good to know a thing or two about it.
First, how do you know if something is actually silver? Look for the word “STERLING” in capital letters somewhere on the item as a first step. Any piece marked STERLING in America must contain a minimum of 925 parts silver for every 1000 parts of material, the “sterling standard” that was adopted in the U.S. in the 1860’s. There will likely be a number of other marks on the silver, including the company name, patent date or number, and/or shape or model number.
It’s good to note that not all pieces made to the sterling standard have the STERLING mark, and both the U.S. and other countries used different standards in the past — from as low as 800 to as high as 950.
Of course, silver collections aren’t just valuable because of the metal they’re made from — they’re valuable because they are special to families, and become more special every time they’re used. Open a silver drawer and you’ll see not just shiny spoons and forks, but heirloom pieces that tell the story of a family through decades of celebrations.
With that spirit, we thought we’d share a little inspiration for taking your silver out from under lock and key and using it in your everyday life! After all, compared to fine china or porcelain, silver is DURABLE. I don’t know about y’all, but we believe beautiful things are meant to be enjoyed, not gather dust… even if they collect a few chips or spots along the way.
As Southern Weddings, of course we’re going to remind you that your wedding is an amazing place to break out silver — in fact, that’s what I did at my own! We used pieces from both of my grandmothers, my mom, and several friends to hold flowers and treats at our cocktail hour and reception. I know it was really special for my family, especially the pieces with engraved inscriptions or monograms.
Trophy cup photo by Ali Harper via Snippet & Ink (styling by Blue Eyed Yonder); mint julep centerpiece photo by Katie Stoops via Southern Weddings; mint julep photo by Kate Headley; mint julep photo from Camille Styles; ham biscuit photo by Ali Harper; peony centerpiece photo by Picotte Photography via Style Me Pretty; centerpiece photo by Michael + Anna Costa; champagne bowl photo by A Bryan Photo; silver charger photo by Jose Villa via Once Wed; white cake photo Jodi Miller via Martha Stewart Weddings; white cake photo by Jose Villa
As you can see, a little tarnish doesn’t dampen the beauty of silver — at least not in our eyes! I hope that’s an additional encouragement to y’all to leave these pieces out instead of tucking them away. And leave them out you can, long past the wedding. To that end, a few of our favorite ideas for using silver around your newlywed home!
Trophy cup flower arrangements from Velvet & Linen and unknown; trophy cups in the kitchen from Savvy Southern Style and Heather Bullard; trophy cup flowers from Thuss + Farrell; evergreens in silver cups from Southern Living
A few tips:
— Opinions differ on whether or not silver can be dishwasher safe, but if you’d like to give it a try, DON’T mix silver and stainless-steel flatware, as a reaction between the two metals can damage both finishes. Knives should always be washed by hand. For best results, remove flatware before the drying cycle begins and dry pieces with a soft cotton cloth. Be sure to use a non-citrus detergent, as they can cause rust spots.
— If washing by hand, put a rubber mat or dishtowel in the bottom of the basin if your sink is metal. Use a soft cloth, mild (non-citrus) detergent, and hot water. Never use abrasive pads or steel wool. Dry immediately after washing to prevent water spots.
— To polish silver, begin with clean, dry pieces. Apply a reputable silver polish in a gentle, circular motion, using a soft cloth. Wash and dry each piece thoroughly to remove excess polish. Try finding silver polish at a fine jewelery store, or look online.
— Don’t have a silver collection of your own? To buy new, check out Tiffany & Co or Reed & Barton. Replacements and Beverly Bremer are great sources for building or filling out a collection with new or gently used pieces. And if you’re not as concerned with pedigree, some scrounging at the flea market can turn up amazing pieces for a mix-and-match collection!
Happily, silver that’s used often requires the least amount of care and special attention. And since silver’s finish actually improves with daily use, developing a patina of thousands of teensy scratches, there’s really no reason to keep it in the attic!
Tell me: Are you looking forward to inheriting silver, or are you registering for it? Are you planning to use it at your wedding? Do you use it in your home? Let’s share!
Ali Harper, Blue Eyed Yonder, and Jodi Miller are all delightful members of our Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory!