Storing And Displaying Antique Sterling Silver
By Grant Copland

After cleaning your antique sterling silver and giving it a fine polishing job, whether your store it or put it on display you need to be cautious. There are some kinds of finishes and materials that have strong reactions with sterling silver and these reactions can lead to being crushed emotionally by the irreparable loss of a precious piece if you don't proceed with caution.
Before putting your antique sterling silver into storage, if that is what you are going to do, you need to take your just-cleaned pieces of antique sterling silver and wrap them individually with buffered and acid-free tissue paper, linen, well-washed cotton, or silver cloths for storing them. If you are storing your antique sterling silver pieces, do not use chamois leather, felt, wool, or newspaper as a wrapper medium. These materials can cause very extensive tarnishing.
But let's say that you are going to display your precious antique sterling silver collection instead of keeping it under wraps. You will want to consider a cabinet of wood with a glass-enclosed display space for putting these pieces on display. Make sure that the wooden shelves are well varnished within this display case, however. Unvarnished shelves in a wooden case omit damaging gaseous vapours. On the other hand, you could use glass shelves. But, if you do this latter move, you have to be very sure that they are strong enough to support the total weight of the antique sterling silver pieces that you are placing upon them.
You can place camphor blocks inside the cabinet so as to fight tarnishing, but you cannot let them actually touch the antique sterling silver pieces. There are specially made papers and cloths that prevent or minimize tarnish build-up utilizing silver salts or activated carbon which can be used to line your display cases. Jewellers, department stores, and silver specialty shops all carry these papers and cloths and they can also tell you how to correctly use them.
Never use wool, cotton felt, or velvet as the clothes upon which your antique sterling silver pieces rest. There are sulfides within these materials and these sulfides eat away at the metal. Additionally, don't have your display case directly in the path of sunlight. While sunlight does not cause tarnishing, it can accelerate the chemical processes that bring on that film. Put your display case out of the way of your sunniest windows.
Not only do you want to use soft cloths like flannel or all-cotton or very soft brushes like horsehair brushes when you do you’re cleaning of your sterling silver, especially your displayed antique sterling silver, but wearing white gloves is also a good idea. Why wear these gloves? There are salts, fats, and oils within your skin that can tarnish the antique sterling silver pieces, that's why. In fact, fingerprints can become veritably etched into antique sterling silver. Prevent this with the wearing of gloves when handling antique sterling silver.

Copyright 2007,Lemur Holdings Pty Ltd, All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or published without our written permission.
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