From 1870 to 1920, when silver was at the height of its popularity, table settings could have upwards of 100 pieces, including serving utensils, gravy ladles, napkin rings, candlesticks, and of course, the silver tea set.
Quick and easy elegance
As we became busier and our entertaining less elaborate, our silverware gradually disappeared from the table. Many of us have had sets handed down to us, but they almost seem too precious to use these days. However décor experts are encouraging us to reintroduce heirloom silver as a way to personalize your table.
“Nothing says elegance like a splash of silverware, says Lena Maher, owner of Celtic Cooking, a catering and event planning company in Montreal. You only need a few key pieces to make your table stand out and there are so many lovely patterns to choose from that you’re sure to find one that suits your style, she says.
Using heirloom silverware as more of a showcase piece also solves the problem of finding matching silver sets—which are rare and therefore quite expensive. “Don’t be afraid to mix and match designs,” says Maher. “That old taboo of having everything matching is mostly ignored these days. It’s perfectly acceptable and can really add some flair to your table to offset different eras and patterns.”
Maher recommends using larger pieces, such as candlesticks, vases or serving trays, for centrepieces and smaller pieces, such as cutlery, salt and pepper shakers or napkin rings, as accents. “It’s all about expressing yourself, so have fun with it,” she says.
Spotting real silverware and how to tell if it’s a fake
Of course, you need to make sure the piece you are buying is sterling silver and not a cheaper metal version that is only silver-plated. Look for a 925 stamp (also known as a hallmark) on the bottom. If the piece doesn’t have the mark, it’s not sterling silver.
Spot the fakes by paying attention to colour. Anything silver-plated will be extremely shiny with a cold, white glow. Real silver has a warmer glow with a slight golden hue. Chips or silver worn away are two other telltale signs of a the cheaper silver-plating.