Antiques from Africa # 3

THE ANTIQUARIAN | Our resident antiques expert tells us about ’50 Shades of Silver’…

Saucy little ladles

I have decided to write a book – I am going to call it ’50 Shades of Silver’ and it will cover all you need to know when you have to polish saucy little bits. I was standing at the fair last week when a couple walked up and asked how often my silver needed cleaning. Well regular cleaning is always good for anything including silver, although a little dirty silver never hurt anyone.

Indeed sauce ladles respond well when rubbed up gently and the shine left after such caressing works really well in candlelit dinners. Joking aside the surface of early Georgian silver is very different to modern Art Deco pieces and this is known as Patina. The years of handling and using silver leaves a surface, that to those in the know can be read like a book. It helps date a piece and gives you a feeling of its history. If only these pieces could talk especially the beautiful dressing table items that decorated a ladies boudoir. Perhaps such secrets should be left to posterity while we still have the opportunity to enjoy them and let our imagination run wild as to what the butler saw.

As a silversmith I work often to clean the silver and have developed a myriad of ways to obtain the exact background colour that allows the three dimensional depth of the pieces to be fully appreciated. It is this presentation that allows the client to appreciate what the original maker intended when he crafted them. ‘Firestain’ which is the copper oxide that is found on the surface of hand wrought silver is greyer in colour than silver. I could go further and detail the various colours of silver due to purity levels but suffice to say there are many variations.  All of this detail is what makes talking to an expert essential when buying silver and applies equally to all antiques and art.

The other comment we often hear is the work involved in cleaning silver and in light of this I am going to open an S &M school. Here initiates especially the ones in neat French style uniforms will be guided in the art of maintaining the upper hand when it comes to dining discipline.For those of you wanting more details on said school when you Google it don’t be surprised if it is found on the first page: I mean Silver & Maids should surely be a winner.