How To Store And Look After Antique Silverware

If you’re lucky enough to own antique silverware, perhaps you have inherited some from a family member or you love collecting antiques, then you will want to ensure that you look after its beauty and protect its value.

Antique silver can add a touch of luxury and elegance to any home but it can be tricky to look after and maintain unless it is properly stored. Here is a guide to how to store and look after antique silverware.

What harms antique silverware?

Silver is an interesting metal and reacts with the air, food and water, which means it can tarnish easily. Silver sulphide is the chemical term for tarnish, which is the yellowish colouring (light tarnishing) or black film (heavy tarnishing) that you can see on silver that hasn’t been protected or polished. Tarnish can't be washed off but with a little care, it can be prevented and with the right products removed and protected. 

Storage options for your antique silverware 

Silver tarnishes much quicker when damp, and needs an adequate level of ventilation so avoid putting these items in a damp cellar or stuffy attic. To preserve your antique silverware it’s often best to use an airtight container and place it somewhere in your home that is safe from oxygen and external pollutants to avoid tarnishing. For example, opt for a cool, protected place, such as a sideboard or drawer in your spare room — away from windows.

Pure silver is also soft so you can also get scratches and dents if stored with other items so always keep apart from other household items.

 According to English Heritage’s Guidelines for the Storage and Display of Archaeological Metalwork, you should look for a silverware container that is made from materials which don’t give off sulphur pollutants, such as:-
  • Acid-free tissue paper and sealed polythene bags: make sure you squeeze the air out before sealing and add silica gel to absorb any excess moisture.
  • Airtight chests or boxes: able to keep humid air and oxygen away to protect silver collections from tarnishing. However, this can take up a lot of space and, if you accidentally choose an airtight container made from a harmful material, you will trap the problem inside with your silverware.
  • Anti-tarnish bags: available in a range of sizes and ideal for smaller silverware items. But avoid plastic bags — these will trap moisture and quicken the tarnishing process.
  • Cloth rolls: a compact way to safely store silver items individually, especially cutlery. However, this method leaves silver exposed to the air and you must make sure that the fabric isn’t harmful to silver. 

If you are storing your silverware, silica gels, chalk and anti-tarnish strips can help absorb harmful gases that react with silver. 

Displaying your antique silverware 

Of course, you should feel free to have your silverware on show, if that is what you’d prefer, after all, part of the enjoyment of antique silverware is its detail. If you wish to show off your silverware, consider a cabinet to display the items and still protect them.

You can also buy microcrystalline wax polish to use on the silverware items that you wish to display to help protect them from humidity, dust and pollutants.

Hopefully, this guide has provided solid advice on safely stori
ng your silver to protect it from damage and tarnishing. Remember to decide whether you want to store or show your antique silverware, and then take steps from there to ensure your precious items maintain their beauty and value. 

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  1. Such useful tips. We keep all our silver in cloth rolls to preserve them for as long as possible.

  2. This is such a useful post! I have some lovely silver and always put off polishing it, you might have inspired me!

  3. Ah this is such an interesting read! My pandora ring seems to tarnish a lot and they told me I can get it off with a special cloth! X

    1. Yes you can get a silver cloth to polish it.

  4. Thanks for this post. We've recently inherited some silverware and it's so tarnished. Sounds like I need to start saving those silica gel packets I keep throwing away! I need to get my hands on some of that microcrystalline wax polish to deal with some of the worst of it I think. Thank you!

    1. How exciting. Yes silica gel packets can help absorb moisture and then get a silver cloth to polish and a a microcrystalline wax polish to protect.