Nolichucky West


Vintage Silver

Mother often told the story of how she would stop and gaze in the window of a downtown department store at a beautiful silver tea set on her walk home from work each day. She then began to set a bit aside from each of her paychecks to invest in a silver tea pot.

I too have admired vintage and antique silver. I love it when it’s shiny, and I love it equally when it’s shabby and tarnished. But every once in a while I do feel the need to polish it up to see the beauty underneath. I have been cleaning my silver pieces annually, usually a bit before the holidays arrive.

I have a little silver tea pot that I cherish. It was a wedding gift from a revered aunt and uncle. The pot with it’s creamer and sugar bowl stands on funny little feet, some are twisted, all are charming.

This little tea pot is usually holding flowers.


I keep pens and pencils in this charmingly tarnished sugar bowl. This sugar bowl is silver plated and the survivor of a fire.


At holiday time ornaments perch atop vintage silver candle sticks.


A birds nest sits in this diminutive  bowl.


Mother’s baby cup holds vintage spools of thread.

I’m trying to learn a bit more about vintage and antique silver. I just watched a video by Martha Stewart that described English tea sets. I was amazed at their beauty, some were from the late 1700’s and were still perfectly functional and beautiful.

When I am exploring at an estate sale or thrift store I usually stop to examine an item that strikes me as being a charming relic of the past. If an item is made of silver it would have a mark or number imprint, often on the back or bottom. I generally look for tarnish first, then check the item for an imprint. If I decide to bring it home the first step is to clean it up.

I have been using a technique to clean my silver that utilizes household staples and chemistry to work miracles. I originally discovered this method on  science, when researching science concepts for my students.  Science fun explains tarnish like this; “ When silver tarnishes, it combines with sulfur and forms silver sulfide. Silver sulfide is black. When a thin coating of silver sulfide forms on the surface of silver, it darkens the silver. The silver can be returned to its former luster by removing the silver sulfide coating from the surface.” There is a great explanation of how this technique works including the chemical equation. I also enjoyed the tutorial over at Creekline House.

I gathered together several silver pieces. They had varying amounts of tarnish and were a variety of sizes ranging from a thimble to my teapot. I am not sure if the bud vase is silver, there are no identifying marks, but it is tarnished so I am going to try to clean it and see what happens.
My kitchen sink is lined with aluminum foil.


A big pot of water is heating on the stove, I’m going to bring it to a boil.
I placed the silver items in the sink, on the foil. My teapot didn’t fit so I’m setting it aside for another day.


I measured out a generous cup of baking soda.
The baking soda is sprinkled over the silver pieces. I’m trying to make note of the location of the tiny thimble so I don’t lose track of it.
The water in the pot had begun to boil so I poured it over the silver pieces, then turned on the hot tap water so all of the pieces are completely covered.
There was a sulphur smell as the silver became brighter.


I could see the silver had transformed into it’s brighter self, but I waited for the water to cool a bit before I fished it out.


I set them on towel to drain, then rubbed each piece with a soft cloth.


Some of the results were magical. I will need to work on the bud vase a bit. I think the thimble needs some extra cleaning too.

As far as cleaning projects go this was a fun one, the results are immediate and dramatic. I have a few more pieces to clean, but first I am going to check up on the news.

I sit in my sunny, cozy home and watch the reports from Texas. I’m counting my blessings that I have not had to evacuate a home I love or hoist my dogs onto the roof to await our rescue. There are so many pictures of heroism and stoic faces of survivors. My heart aches for the little mothers protecting their babies and families trying hard to care for their elderly and disabled loved ones. So many thoughts run around my head as I question what I would do and what can I do. Donating to The Red Cross is something I can do. I’m going to visit their website.

Thanks for listening. Take care.

P.S. There are some vintage silver-plate and metal items available in my Etsy shop









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