Sterling Silver

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Sterling Silver


Uses:

Individual eating implements often included:

• forks (dinner fork, place fork, salad fork, pastry fork, shrimp or cocktail fork)

• spoons (teaspoon, coffee spoon, demitasse spoon, bouillon spoon, gumbo soup spoon, iced tea spoon) and

• knives (dinner knife, place knife, butter spreader, fruit knife, cheese knife).

This was especially true during the Victorian period, when etiquette dictated no food should be touched with one's fingers.

Serving pieces were often elaborately decorated and pierced and embellished with ivory, and could include any or all of the following: carving knife and fork, salad knife and fork, cold meat fork, punch ladle, soup ladle, gravy ladle, casserole-serving spoon, berry spoon, lasagna server, macaroni server, asparagus server, cucumber server, tomato server, olive spoon, cheese scoop, fish knife and fork, pastry server, petit four server, cake knife, bon bon spoon, salt spoon, sugar sifter or caster and crumb remover with brush.

Cutlery sets were often accompanied by tea sets, hot water pots, chocolate pots, trays and salvers, goblets, demitasse cups and saucers, liqueur cups, bouillon cups, egg cups, plates, napkin rings, water and wine pitchers and coasters, candelabra and even elaborate centerpieces.

The interest in sterling extended to business (sterling paper clips, mechanical pencils, letter openers, calling card boxes, cigarette cases), to the boudoir (sterling dresser trays, mirrors, hair and suit brushes, pill bottles, manicure sets, shoehorns, perfume bottles, powder bottles, hair clips) and even to children (cups, cutlery, rattles, christening sets).

Other uses of sterling include:

• Use as surgical and medical instruments as early as Ur, Hellenistic-era Egypt and Rome, and their use continued until largely replaced in Western countries in the mid to late 20th century by cheaper, disposable plastic items and sharper, more durable steel ones. Sterling's natural malleability is an obvious physical advantage, but it is also naturally aseptic. 

• Due to sterling silver having a special acoustic character, some brasswind instrument manufacturers use 92.5% sterling silver as the material for making their instruments, including the flute and saxophone. For example, some leading saxophone manufacturers such as Selmer and Yanagisawa have crafted some of their saxophones from sterling silver, which they believe make the instruments more resonant and colorful in timbre.





Tarnish and Corrosion


Chemically, silver is not very reactive—it does not react with oxygen or water at ordinary temperatures, so does not easily form a silver oxide. However, it is attacked by common components of atmospheric pollution: silver sulfide slowly appears as a black tarnish during exposure to airborne compounds of sulfur (byproducts of the burning of fossil fuels and some industrial processes), and low level ozone reacts to form silver oxide. As the purity of the silver decreases, the problem of corrosion or tarnishing increases because other metals in the alloy, usually copper, may react with oxygen in the air.

The black silver sulfide (Ag2S) is among the most insoluble salts in aqueous solution, a property that is exploited for separating silver ions from other positive ions.

Sodium chloride (NaCl) or common table salt is known to corrode silver-copper alloy, typically seen in silver salt shakers where corrosion appears around the holes in the top.

Several products have been developed for the purpose of polishing silver that serve to remove sulfur from the metal without damaging or warping it. Because harsh polishing and buffing can permanently damage and devalue a piece of antique silver, valuable items are typically hand-polished to preserve the unique patinas of older pieces. Techniques such as wheel polishing, which are typically performed by professional jewelers or silver repair companies, are reserved for extreme tarnish or corrosion.