Friday 30 September 2011

Silver, Linens And Crystal Make Me Swoon!

For the last twenty odd years I have been conducting a love affair with the trappings of elegance.  My stingy practical side completely disappears when I am in front of an Irish linen triple damask tablecloth.  I lose my head over an oil painting offered at auction.  Waterford crystal dazzles me.  But, sterling silver is the thing that may ultimately be my downfall!  I covet it.  I must have it!

It all started sometime in the late 80's with this ~

I've kept every issue of Victoria magazine.  When I lose myself in these pages, I'm having high tea at Balmoral, lunching with the Vanderbilts, spending the summer of 1910 in the Adirondacks or writing poetry in an Irish farmhouse.

I feed the flames with a healthy dose of this ~

I will be ready to serve a perfectly elegant dinner to my Mr. Darcy when he arrives.  He will be just like Colin Firth and he will be madly in love with me and with my beautiful table setting.  We will decorate his manor house with the finest accoutrements his vast wealth can buy!  Did I just lose it there?

In the meantime, I haunt auctions, consignment stores and thrift shops for fine things at way below value.  They turn up surprisingly often when you know what you are looking for.

Silver is a complicated study of hallmarks, styles and grades but here is a quick Silver 101 course.  Silverplate is a base metal coated in a thin layer of silver.  It will say silverplate, EPNS or tripleplate to denote the means of coating and thickness of silver.  It has very little resale value.  Sheffield plate  is a base metal coated with two sheets of silver and is quite old and valuable.  But, don't confuse it with a brand name for silver plate called Sheffield.  Confused yet?  The really wonderful stuff is sterling!  A sterling object is 925 parts silver to 75 parts base metal.  Pure silver is too soft to hold a shape.  It is always hallmarked as sterling and with a makers name.  The easiest way to recognize it when you can't easily find the hallmark is to rub your thumb across the tarnish.  It will wipe right off, unlike silver plate.  It is light in weight and dents easily.

This week, at a favourite consignment store, Decor On A Dime I found this beautiful pair of sterling candlesticks.  The price was $15.00 and should have been at least $100.  The melt down value of the silver is that.  New, they would have been several hundred dollars.

These may have slipped by because the bases are weighted.  That's to prevent them from tipping over and setting the lovely linen tablecloth on fire.  Mr. Darcy hates having his dinner disrupted by firemen!  These had the look of Birks and I knew the hallmark wouldn't be in the usual places of upper rim or the bottom.

Sure enough, right where I thought it would be ~

A little clean up with a gentle silver cleaner (don't even bother with the stuff that starts with S) and I am ready for the queen to sit down to tea.  They say she uses this brand but I can't imagine her giving the silver a 'rub up' while she watches the telly.

I really hope the owner of the shop doesn't read this post.  She's such a lovely lady and I would have told her what they were if she had asked.  They're mine now and nobody takes away my sterling!

Let me know if you stumble across any sets of Waterford crystal in you local Goodwill and I'll gladly take it off your hands.  Te he.

Happy treasure hunting!

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