Do you know how to store antique silverware for safekeeping? If you’re fortunate enough to own antique silverware, no doubt you will want to keep it’s appeal, value & beauty for as long as possible. Antique silver is a fantastic addition to any home! Silverware adds a touch of elegance, luxury & character. This beautiful metal can be tricky to maintain and safeguard unless properly stored though.
How To Store Antique Silverware For Safekeeping
This guide will help you store antique silverware items, keeping them in excellent condition for years to come. This includes which containers help prevent damage that accelerates the tarnishing process.
What Harms Antique Silverware?
Silver is a stubbornly difficult metal to protect and maintain. It reacts with a multitude of chemicals located in air, food & water. Silver that has been unprotected or polished will form a yellowish colour (light tarnishing) or black film (heavy tarnishing). The chemical term for tarnishing is Silver Sulphide. Whilst it isn’t difficult to remove tarnishing, it won’t wash off with water & soap. It’s worth taking time to protect your silver during storage to avoid the need for frequent cleaning.
Silver tarnishes much quicker when damp, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum. This shows that airtight containers & maintaining adequate levels of humidity are key to preserving your antique silverware. It is best to avoid putting silverware in a damp cellar or stuffy attic. To safely store antique silverware, it is best to use an airtight container in a place that is safe from oxygen and external pollutants that cause the production of silver sulphide. Opting for a cool protected place such a sideboard or drawer in a spare room, away from windows would be ideal.
Unfortunately, it’s not just external influences that can harm your silverware! Pieces of silverware can damage each other if not stored properly and come into contact with each other.. Pure silver is soft meaning it can easily scratch & dent each other if not kept apart whilst stored.
Storage Options For Antique Silverware
According to English Heritages’ Guidelines for the Storage and Display of Archaeological Metalwork, you should look for a silverware container made from materials that don’t give off sulphur pollutants.
Safe storage solutions to prevent damage & tarnishing:
- Acid-free tissue paper & sealed polythene bags – Squeeze air out before sealing & add silica gel to absorb any excess moisture.
- Airtight chests of boxes – Able to keep humid air & oxygen out. This can take up a lot of space. Double check container materials first. Containers made from harmful materials will trap the problem inside with your silverware.
- Anti-tarnish bags – These are available in a range of sizes and ideal for smaller pieces of silverware. Avoid plastic bags which trap moisture and expedite the tarnishing process.
- Cloth Rolls – Compact way to safely store silverware individually, especially cutlery. This method does leave silver exposed to air and you must make sure the fabric used isn’t harmful to silver.
Remember, each piece of silverware must be kept apart to prevent them scratching each other. This means getting a storage box with separate shelves & grooves to keep cutlery isolated or using individual bags, cloth rolls and tissue paper for each piece of silver & placing these slightly apart in their storage container. Make sure not to stack them on top of each other.
Displaying Antique Silverware
The recommendations above aren’t your only options, displaying your silverware is also an option if you prefer. There are some stunningly beautiful glass-doored display cabinets available for storing silverware, adding to the enjoyment of antique silverware and it’s ornamental characteristic.
Items such as silica gels, chalk and anti-tarnish strips can also help decrease humidity & absorb harmful gases that react with silver. There is also a microcrystalline wax polish, ideal for using on your displayed silverware items to protect them from humidity, dust and pollutants. Precious items stored in places such as the British Museum and Tower of London also use this type of was to help preserve important artefacts!
What To Avoid When Storing Silverware
Guidelines for Storage and Display of Archaeological Metalwork also claims the following materials can adversely affect your silver and you should avoid using them for storage:
- Rubber (i.e rubber bands)
- Anything polysulfide-based or containing pyrite and rubber.
- Stained or treated wood
The chemicals found in treated wood can harm silver and speed up the tarnishing process, whilst ink in newspapers can corrode silver. Using anti-tarnish bags, acid-free tissue and untreated wood coated with anti-tarnish lacquer will help avoid this.
Hopefully, these tips have provided solid advice on storing antique silverware and protecting it from damage and tarnishing. Start with deciding whether to store or display your silverware then take steps from there to ensure your precious items maintain their beauty and value.
Did you know how to store antique silver? Did you find these tips useful?