Saturday, February 6, 2010

Baby's Silver, All Grown Up

Do you have silver that was given to you as a child sitting on a shelf or packed away, unused?  Baby mugs, bowls, teething rings, and such?

If so, I encourage you to bring it out and use it.  No, not for its original purpose, but for other uses.  I use my childhood silver regularly today.  I use my silver baby mug to drink water in our city bath, where the little mug is a sweet connection to my childhood and won’t break if I drop it.  (Years ago I used it to hold cigarettes during parties when we all still smoked.)  The silver bowl from which I was fed as a baby I now use to serve nuts or dip during cocktails.  And I’ve never ceased using my childhood English nursery-rhyme napkin ring.  As far as a teething ring goes, I needn’t think of an alternate use since I lost mine decades ago.  My mother used her babyhood silver porringer as an ashtray, and she used her silver baby bowl to feed the cat.  There are all sorts of uses for baby silver!

And what if you don’t have any?  Well, then you might consider buying some for yourself to use for more adult purposes.  Silver baby mugs and bowls are easily found on eBay and in antiques group shops, usually very reasonably priced.  So what if they have someone else’s name or initials on them—that didn’t dissuade my grandmother from buying silver for me and my siblings when we were wee little things.

Baby Reggie in the arms of his godfather Henry Firestone

My family lived in Grosse Pointe when my parents were building their family, just a few blocks from my father’s parents.  My grandmother, Granny Darling, believed that each of her grandchildren should have his or her own baby silver, and she saw to it that each of us was provided with it.  And I’m grateful that she did.  Thank you, Granny.

Granny Darling
photo by Bachrach

At the time we lived in G.P., many of the estates that lined Lake St. Clair were being razed and divided; smaller houses, still lovely and commodious, arose on smaller plots of land.  My mother and Granny Darling enjoyed trolling the estate sales, and they also haunted auctions held by DuMouchelles in Detroit.  These were fertile grounds for acquiring all manner of things for the house, including good furniture, china, and linens.  And they were the sources for where my thrifty Granny Darling bought her grandchildren’s silver.

It was never considered odd or unusual that the silver we had as children was engraved with other people’s names or initials.  Besides, there was plenty of silver on hand that had our own family’s names or initials on it that had been handed down from previous generations (my mother was the only daughter of an only daughter of an only daughter, each of whom was given full services when married).  I often wondered as a child, “Who were these people whose silver I used?”  It was amusing to make up stories about the people whose names appeared on my childhood silver, and to give them imagined personalities.

Recently I took my baby mug and bowl to a silversmith and had the interiors re-gilt, as most of the gold had worn off over the years.  I think they really look quite spiffy now, and taking care of them as I have adds to the pleasure I find while using them today, as does knowing that future babies—and wise adults—will likely someday use them, too.

Tell me, do you still use your baby silver?

All color photographs by Boy Fenwick


  1. I love our family silver. My baby cups, my husbands, julip cups, napkin rings- Thankfully my parents kept it all and we adore using these pieces. There are engraved shot-glasses, small silver riding trophies, small trays and several pewter pieces. We use them through-out the house -even in our powder-rooms. Wonderful post! We even have a silver rattle on the night-stand.......

  2. I always WANT to use it, and I never do. My favorite porringer says, Matilda's First Birthday. There's also a little mug and another bowl that I think has putti on it, of all things. I should pull them out, polish them, and put them on a surface somewhere...

  3. I used to until it all got stolen. Broke my heart! I also had a lot of old julep cups that my great uncle used to pass out at christmas.

  4. Ah, julep cups...we used them for milk when I was a child. I thought that everyone drank their milk from sterling cups as a child. I have a dozen or so today, we use them to drink juleps at Derby Day, otherwise they are perfect for nosegays...

  5. 1) Through the vagaries of inheritance, I have baby silver, including christening cups, from assorted people dating back to the 1820s. It's a nuisance. (It has to be polished, it's effectively uninsurable, and as someone says above, when it's stolen, you feel as if you've lost something important.)

    2) All that aside, I most enjoy the baby silver of my spouse's step-father, whom she loathed, justifiably. In some of it, I keep my toothbrushes; other bits are scattered here and there in powder rooms for guests swallowing painkillers on the sly. It's all Tiffany and effusively engraved by people dead for more than a century. (He was a rascal, but I was always fond of him. If Douglas Hofstadter is right, perhaps I am thereby keeping him, however briefly, "immortal.")

    3) Many decades ago, when my friends and schoolmates had children, I felt obliged to send some bit of silver to mark the event. Then I had occasion to visit one of them, and noticed that there were a couple dozen of those Tiffany barbells in Baby's room. That was the end of silver, for me.

  6. Silver is beautiful and a constant bother to keep spit spot. G. polished mine so often but it falls sadly by the wayside now. I still use it- some for jewelry, cups perfect for violas in the spring and larger for buttercups. they do make for great nosegays as you say.

  7. I do indeed. As well as my darling baby girls. And I have seen generations-worth used at parties, a concept I truly adore.

  8. We do! And I love the little dents on the bottoms of the cups and bowls from the years of clattering and banging on high chairs and tables.

  9. LPC: Then you must get it out, give it a polish, and enjoy it!

    P-D: So sorry yours was stolen. It is awful when that happens. I had a pair of gold monogrammed cufflinks that had been passed down father to son from my ggg-grandfather to me stolen shortly after I was given them, also a silver spoon that accompanied them (engraved with each recipient's initials and the date). Still makes me sick to think of it.

    LA: I recommend Goddard's Silver Polish Foam, works in a twinkle. Get to work!

    Ancient: Won't you please start a blog, please! I love your stories.

    BH: How wonderful!

  10. I, like the ancient, use my father's cup to hold my toothbrush and like you used it in the past to hold cigarettes and sometimes nosegays. Unfortunately, except for this cup, all our baby stuff was left behind when we left Cuba. I don't think the present guard is using it in quite the same way it was intended for.

    Goddards's is indeed the best although hard to find outside NYC.You can order online from Gracious

  11. Reggie Darling, this is a fabulous idea! a collection of them and you could use them as posy vases on a table. i have no clue where mine is, probably stuffed in the back of a cabinet somewhere wrapped in plastic (which is a no-no for silver) at my mother's house. however, my brother proudly uses his as a Q-tip receptacle in his bathroom. it is a perfect size.

  12. I absolutely use it all and polish it weekly. And I love to give Tiffany silver baby items as new baby gifts. You know it will be kept and cherished always.

  13. I do, I do!!! And I love using it! I am one of the lucky ones who also had grandparents with full sets of silver wear; one set for me (for 24!), and one set for my sister!
    My father and I have the same initials, so passing his baby silver to me will be easy....

    As everyone keeps saying; use "the good stuff", why wait, everyday should be a festive day!!

    Love checking in from time to time, you writing is great!

  14. I hadn't used my baby silver, but perhaps I should start to! When I got married, my MIL gifted us her and her husband's family silver. I love it so much, but I'm not currently using it except for company because I heard that cleaning it with stainless steel could damage it. I'm thinking maybe I should switch over to the silver set full time... BTW, thanks for a great blog and hi.

  15. 1. I have a lovely bookend made from my silver-dipped baby shoe that's mounted on a marble stand. It's in decrepit condition and I've been meaning to have it redipped. Now I SHALL.

    2. I love Dumouchelles! My mother lives in Bloomfield Hills and almost never misses a sale. She used to send me their monthly catalogs; now I just troll through the listings online late at night and ponder whether the wonderful deals would be negated by shipping costs out to Hollywood.

  16. IO: Thanks for commenting. Yes, aren't the little dents and divets appealing? When I had my cup and bowl re-gilt the silversmith was surprised that I didn't want the dents smoothed out.

    Lindaraxa: Your father's cup is to be treasured, indeed. I buy my supply of Goddards at GH here in NYC.

    Soodie: Call up your mother and tell her that you will pick it up the next time you visit her!

    SR2: Once a week, my aren't you industrious!

    Natasha: Thanks for checking in, I'm glad you use your silver. No sense in storing it away.

    Frau S: It is time for you to open up that Comstock Load of yours and start using it. "Cleaning with stainless steel"? I assume you are referring to washing silver and stainless steel in the same dishwasher load? If so, I believe it is OK so long as they are separated and don't touch, except for knives which shouldn't ever go in the DW. But, then, I am one of those guys that errs on the side of handwashing anything that I am not absolutely sure shouldn't go in the DW. I don't mind doing it, but then there are only two of us most of the time.

    Lisa: Great idea to spiff it up! I know from reading your blog that you (as am I) are an auction addict...I would suspect that prices at auction in Detroit may be sufficiently low these days to justify shipping costs in certain cases? Perhaps your mother would agree to store your finds until you accummulate a big enough load to fill a container!

  17. I used to think that milk tasted funny when I drank it at other people's houses. It wasn't until I was older that I realized it was *our* milk that had a taste of silver to it. I drink my milk out of glasses these days. Silverware (real sterling) is a must, though. There is nothing like the mouth feel of a well made, well designed spoon or fork.

    I had to buy silver spoons to use before I got some from Mother since my silver service ended up staying with Daddy's last wife. Not sure how much of it I will end up with eventually as I know many pieces have done the suicide dive into the Insinkerator.

    Did you end up with Mother's Tiffany dumbell and the sterling/ivory teething ring , Reggie, or did Frecky or Sister? I know I didn't, but I remember playing with them.

    love, your sister Hermione

  18. yes, love baby silver at any age!

  19. I have my husband's silver cup that his mother gave me and another I found in an antique store. I don't use them, but see them when I open a certain cupboard.

    Some of my favorite sterling charms for my bracelet have the names and inscriptions of previous owners. I actually prefer my collectables with the monograms of others.


Please do comment! I welcome and encourage them, and enjoy the dialogue.

Related Posts with Thumbnails