|My great-great aunt Rita's silver flatware|
prior to its professional polishing
When Giggy's widower husband, my great-grandfather, who was known as "Unky" and whose photograph was the subject of an earlier post of mine, died in his nineties in the mid 1950s, MD inherited several houses full-to-bursting of furnishings from him including, among other things, his former sister-in-law's silver flatware.
MD was the only heir to her mother's parents (she, like her mother before her, was an only child), and she was overwhelmed by the vast quantity of stuff that came into her possession when she inherited their estate. She sold most of it in a two-day sale held at an auction house in Indianapolis, the nearest large city to where her grandparents had lived. Not only was what she inherited from them out of fashion at the time, but she considered most of it to be far too formal for the way she wanted to raise her (then) young family. Even so, she still shipped home a truckload of furniture and objects, mostly Victoriana, that she scattered about the houses we lived in when I was growing up. She got rid of most of it, though, in the late 1960s and early 1970s when she replaced it with modern Scandinavian furniture that was then much in vogue. Today only a handful of pieces of furniture and objects from her side of the family remain in family hands.
|There are nine different pieces of silver|
for every place setting in this service
MD held on to some of her family's silver, including her great aunt's flatware and two other substantial sets of silver that had once belonged to other relatives. Our family regularly used that silver when I was growing up, including eating all of our meals using the flatware that MD inherited, plus other silver that came from my father's side of the family, mainly nineteenth-century coin silver.
|Most of the silver is monogrammed "C"|
for Coolidge, Rita's married name,
but some of it is monogrammed "T" and
was likely bought later to fill out the set
As I have written in an earlier post, MD was rather a snob when it came to certain things (despite vehement protestations by her to the contrary), and she informed her children that it was "common" to use anything other than sterling silver flatware for "everyday" purposes (interestingly, she considered stainless steel to be preferable to silver plate, which was beneath contempt). "People like us," MD sniffed, had multiple sets of sterling flatware at our disposal to choose from when setting the table, so why use anything else? It's just silver, after all.
|Only one piece of the silver|
Camilla sent me was truly damaged
Not surprisingly, our silver got rather careless treatment. MD thought nothing of putting it in the dishwasher, where many of the pitch-filled knife handles split open in the heat. Numerous spoons and forks got mangled over the years by kitchen sink dispose-alls, were thrown out with the trash, or were otherwise lost.
|S. Swope & Co. is the name of the|
jewelry store in Terre Haute, Indiana,
that retailed the silver
MD spent the last decade and a half of her life living in a life-care/retirement facility where she had little use for her silverware, so she packed it up and put it in storage. When it came time for me and my siblings to divide MD's belongings after she died, what had once been three large intact sets of silver flatware were now missing quite a few pieces, and much of what remained was scratched, dented, and heavily tarnished after years of not being used.
|A vintage postcard of the S. Swope & Co. store, ca. 1910|
Image courtesy of bisray.com
So, what does one do when one inherits—as Reggie did from his mother—or is given—as Reggie was by his sister Camilla—silver that shows evidence of both wear over the generations and where some pieces or elements are missing, broken, or damaged?
|The silver's maker's mark is a double-headed|
griffon with its right paw resting on a circle containing a "W"
If one is a conscientious steward of such things for future generations, as Reggie is, one takes the silver to a silversmith and has it polished and repaired where needed, and one fills in the missing pieces where one can. Fortunately, there are several silversmiths here in New York City that specialize in restoring and repairing silver and that—in some cases—also stock pieces in long-discontinued silver patterns that one can buy to fill out one's flatware sets. In addition to these sources there are internet-based specialist silver dealers, such as Replacements, Ltd., that carry stock of odd pieces of silver in discontinued patterns that one can buy.
|Rita's silver after restoration|
When I examined the silver that Camilla sent me I determined that it needed only modest attending to in order to return it to a gleaming, well-cared-for state. I took it to Raphael Silver & Antiques in New York City for polishing and repairs. In the past I have also used Jean's Silversmiths, which is coincidentally next door to the building where Raphael's workrooms are located, but I chose to use Raphael for this job because they had recently done some excellent work for me in repairing and polishing some silver, including several pieces that I bought last fall at auction and which I wrote about in an earlier post.
A place setting of the silver, professionally-polished and gleaming
Raphael did a superb job in polishing and restoring my great-great aunt Rita's silver, and I highly recommend that you consider entrusting your silver to them for restoration, should it need it. I also recommend Jean's Silversmith, too, for repairs and polishing, and when seeking replacement pieces, as they have a far more extensive inventory of repacement silver flatware and hollowware to choose from than Raphael does. Both do a substantial mail-order business.
|A pin containing a photograph of|
my great-great aunt Rita
as a little girl, ca. 1870
Photograph by Camilla Darling
Reggie believes that it is important to take care of one's possessions, including those we inherit from our forebears. In the case of silver, that means having it polished and repaired where needed, and then storing it safely when not in use. But Reggie also believes that one needn't be held hostage by inherited things, and that if one isn't inclined to use them or doesn't care for them, one should feel free to either pass them on (as Camilla did to Reggie) or sell them (as MD did years ago). However, so long as we own it Reggie believes we are responsible for maintaining it. That's why they call it stewardship.
Raphael Silver Repair & Antiques
14 West 45th Street
New York, New York 10036
16 West 45th Street
New York, New York 10036
Please note, Reggie had received nothing in return for his recommendations, nor does he expect to.
All photographs, except where noted, by Boy Fenwick