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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stainless and Silver Flatware

When I got married we didn't have the expensive china, flatware and glassware. We needed practical stuff and that is what we got. So I had cheap silverware. It served the purpose. But later, when we could afford it, I bought a nice set of stainless flatware. It still wasn't what some newlyweds expect their guests to pay for wedding gifts. I've seen silverware placesettings that are as expensive as sterling silver placesettings. But it was nice. Last year, I bought an even nicer set at a thrift store. The boxes had not even been opened! I was so thrilled and paid $97 for a box with 8 placesettings and serving pieces. The only thing was it only had 8 teaspoons and I really need 16. I was always running out of teaspoons until I found some extra spoons that match. I've also bought antique silver plated sets at yard sales and antique malls. I bought one complete set in it's silverware box (8 placesettings and serving pieces) for $25 at a yard sale. For that matter, I've bought china sets at thrift stores and antique malls much cheaper than buying an expensive piece at a time at a department store. I have a set for any time of the year (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Christmas). If young brides will wait until they can afford it and then shop regularly at yard sales, thrift stores and antique malls/sales/festivals you can get what you want much cheaper. It's a matter of patience and persistence in going to these places and yard sales.

I use my new stainless silverware all the time because I didn't pay an arm and a leg for it. Whether I'm eating cereal or hosting a family dinner. Same with my silver plate silverware. I can use it any time without worrying about it.

When purchasing your stainless silverware make sure the box says it is 18/10 stainless and it's stamped on each piece. If it doesn't say it, then it isn't 18/10. A typical composition of 18% Chromium and 10% Nickel, commonly known as 18/10 stainless, is often used in flatware. Similarly, 18/0 ( aka 302) and 18/8 (aka 308) are also available. The higher nickel content ensures better resistance to stress-corrosion cracking. 18/10 is also referred to as 316 stainless steel, with 16-18% Chromium, 10-14% Nickle, and also 2-3% Molybdenum, which greatly increases the resistance to pitting corrosion. 316L is a very good grade of stainless steel. It means type 316 (aka 18/10) "L"ow carbon. 18/10 (aka 316) is most resistant against acidic and chloride corrosion. Think tomato sauce (acidic) and vegetables boiled in salted water (chloride). The Nickel is the metal that reduces the rust and pitting of the base metal, being Stainless Steel. You want your stainless to have a good weight to it. If it has a good heft to it then it is least likely to bend a fork tine or the tip of a knife. For some inexplainable reason, with a shop full of tools, my husband still will use a knife tip for a screw driver in a pinch! Time and use will affect any flatware. There will be some corrosion, scratches, silver plating will wear away showing it's copper base, sterling silver will get thinner. But a good set will last longer and you shouldn't have to purchase a new set unless you just get tired of the old set. (By the way, all this information goes for stainless steel cookware, pots and pans, too.)

If you have allergies to metals then you might want to use Titanium or Sterling Silver.

Pure silver is too soft for normal use, and so it is combined with another metal for strength. Sterling silver, for example, is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. German silver is alloyed with copper, zinc and nickel. Silver objects are stamped with a hallmark, showing that the metal was assayed for its purity; the hallmark identifies the maker as well. If the object is not sterling but silverplate or electroplate, the hallmark will indicate so.

Silver plate is made from a base metal such as copper with a thin coating of silver electrolytically deposited on it. Silver molecules will combine with certain other elements for which it has an affinity to create a corrosion product which we call tarnish.

It follows then that removing tarnish (usually by means of an abrasive polish) means removing some of the silver itself. In fact, the effect of years of cleaning can be seen on older pieces of silver, where engraved decorations have become faint due to loss of the surface. Therefore, tarnish formation should be prevented as much as possible to avoid this gradual loss of silver.

Sulfurs are the strongest tarnishing agents, as anyone who has eaten an egg with a silver spoon or fork will know. But sulfurs are also present as pollutants in the air from the burning of fossil fuels, and even generated in our homes from such products as foam rubbers, carpet padding, paints, wool or felt. We can only try to reduce the presence of these agents so that our silver will not combine with them to form tarnish.

Silver kept in a cabinet or cupboard which closes securely enough to prevent air exchange is at least somewhat protected from air-borne sulfurs and chlorides. If the cabinet is made of wood, the interior surfaces should be well sealed (two coats of water-based polyurethane can act as a barrier against acids in the wood).

Other objects stored with the silver should be compatible-- plastics and fabrics may generate tarnishing agents, while china and glass are undoubtedly safe. Chests for storing silver flatware are generally lined with a fabric known as silvercloth which is impregnated with tiny silver particles which sacrificially absorb sulfurs; this fabric is also available in pouches or zippered bags of various sizes for the storage of individual pieces, and in lengths for lining containers or entire display cabinets. This fabric is recommended for preventing tarnish; however, the particles will eventually accumulate so much sulfur that they will gradually become ineffective, so be aware that silvercloth will not last indefinitely.

Storing silver in plastic bags and cardboard boxes and tissue paper, unless they are archival quality products, will do more harm than good.

Frequent light cleanings are safer for your silver and less time consuming for you than waiting until silver is very tarnished before cleaning. Don't use rubber gloves when you wash or polish silver-- they emit sulfurs! Removal of tarnish generally involves the use of an abrasive and so it is referred to as polishing. Since silver is softer than many other metals, it is of utmost importance that the appropriate abrasive be used-- a product formulated for cleaning copper or brass would be much too strong for silver, and leave disfiguring scratches. The trick to using any silver polishing products is to take it easy. Don't "scrub" but be gentle. Liquid silver dips are another option. They lessen scratches, but they do contain acids which make etching and pitting a possibility. They must be used with great care. If an object is left in the dip for too long it will be overcleaned, and eventually pitted. Also, chemicals which leak into hollow feet or handles can pose a problem as they will continue to work inside the piece; furthermore, the acids are harmful to wood and ivory attachments, as well as to some other metals. It's more prudent to swab the solution onto the silver and rinse thoroughly than to immerse the silver in the dip. ( http://www.jbsilverware.co.uk/Cleaning.aspx )


How do you store your silverware? You may have a kitchen drawer for your everyday flatware and a special place for your fancy, schmancy stainless or silver plate (or sterling) silverware. A lot of people don't care how they store their flatware. Their silverware drawer may look like this:


I'm a little more organized. I don't save carry out plastic utensils. They are called throwaway utensils for a reason! LOL!

No, I do have one or two plastic spoons to carry with me when I take a yogurt to the library (when I'm doing genealogy, I can sneak into the bathroom and gulp down my yogurt quickly and get back to work without having to log off the computer and pack up, go eat, come back, unpack and log back on, so I use a plastic spoon to pump that yogurt in me quickly and get back to work). I do throw them away once I use them instead of washing and re-using PLASTIC spoons!


Here are some ideas that I found on the Internet:























Here are some ideas for storing your more expensive silverware or stainless flatware:














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