Everywhere I look there’s something else that catches my eye. How much silverplate is too much? To a collector that would be hard to define. I have come across (and paid high prices for), a few pieces of early tarnished (almost black), dented, dinged, and cracked silverplate and that was when I was a newbie to collecting and didn’t know any better. We all live and learn along the way. In fact, a few pieces were so bad off, they’d likely do better extracting whatever trace amounts of silver was left in them rather than hide them in some closet out of sight.
And during my time collecting silverplate I’ve also come across some mis-matched pieces, forlorn, and almost every piece silently begged to be re-purposed (as in using it for something else other than what it was meant for in some cases). Other times it just required a very good thorough soak in hot water, baking soda and placed in an aluminum roasting pan.
On the other hand do keep in mind the more delicate silverplate pieces like combs, brushes, and certain types of footed creamer and sugar pots mustn’t get too hot in a water/ baking soda bath. Why? Because some of the feet, pour spouts and handles were fused with lead back in the day. Lead, when subjected to high heat can melt, thus ruining that once stunning tea pot or water pitcher. Thankfully, I haven’t had any issues when soaking my silverplate to remove the years of tarnish, but just the same, I do keep a constant eye on it from start to finish when I clean it.
How to date silverplate:
If it is dark (almost black) this doesn’t mean the piece is tarnished, rather it has been oxidized over the years. Depending on how and when a particular piece of silverplate was designed (and what year), can be traced either by a maker’s mark, or by the age of the silverplate and the darkening of the silverplate (or absence thereof). And it doesn’t really mean that the silverplate lost all of its ‘silver plated’ finish. I found out if a piece of silverplate is dark and kind of heavy to the feel, it is an older piece (pre-1900s), for example. If it resembles tarnish and feels light weight, the particular piece might have been produced after the late 1800’s. It appears that some folks nowadays are extracting what silver they can from these precious antiques thus ruining them entirely.
Oh, and the issue of potential lead is another concern. However, if the silverplate is in tact and doesn’t have any scoring, gouges, scratches, chips or cracks, then it might be safe to use if it’s a sugar or creamer set, a salt and pepper shaker. Some collectors advise to promptly toss out the salt and pepper when done with a meal, and make sure the salt and pepper shakers are clean and allowed to dry completely after washing them out by hand. I wouldn’t recommend placing any silverplate item in a dishwasher. In fact, it amazes me that so many people don’t do dishes the old-fashioned way anymore: at the sink with some dish soap, a sparingly amount of bleach, and hot water.
I see folks commenting all the time when it comes to buying up old porcelain dishes, Transfer ware, antique Ball, Kerr, Quick-Seal, and Mason canning jars that have wire dome glass lids and the zinc porcelain-lined screw cap lids. Some canners still use the antique canning jars and just fit them with new lids and bands. I’ve also found that antique canning jars come in very handy for storing dry foods like beans, pasta, rice, flour, etc. I can’t vouch for the silverplate items as I’ve downsized yet again, only to buy some silverplate brushes likely from the 19th century or a little earlier. They might be hair brushes, or clothing brushes. I have one right now I’m in the process of shaking out some sediment. The celluloid overlay has come slightly detached from the silverplate handle, and thus it sounds like a maraca when shook and loose bits of black dust fall out. I suspect this might be coal dust, or something very similar. So it leads me to believe this brush had collected soot most possibly when homes were once heated by coal and wood as a primary heating source which in turn might date this particular brush back to the early 1900s or earlier.
The designs on the brushes are what catch my eye, and you just don’t see beauty like that anymore. When have I ever walked into a store, plucked a package of plastic brushes (or combs) and saw a breath-taking embossed image of a woman’s face, hair free-flowing and every nook, crevasse and cranny filled with a flower motifs? Nowhere in today’s times, and since I’m making great strides to downsize all the plastics out of my life (although I do realize plastics can’t be entirely avoided), I figured silverplate brushes, combs and other antiques will likely survive another 100 years.
I love silverplate, and since using a real bristle silverplate hair brush and versus the inferior plastic counterparts, my hair is thanking me for it. When I used plastic brushes (didn’t matter if was cheap or pricy), my hair would never fail to snap and tangles were painful to brush out, creating more frustration, painful tangles. There’s a different sensation to using a real bristled antique hair brush as opposed to using a plastic one. I even discovered that some of the celluloid hair brushes worked better than what’s mass-marketed today, and with a growing trend among health-conscious consumers, you’d think there’d be more choices than just plastic hair brushes and combs. I seen a real bamboo toothbrush made of wood. But the bristles were made by the DuPont company and sounded very much like a synthetic plastic just marketed under a new name. Oh, and the toothbrush was made in China from American parts and cost $6.
Well, looks like its plastic toothbrushes for the time being, and no, I would never, ever use an antique celluloid toothbrush. I only saw one surface many years ago in a matching set that had belonged to a family going back generations. The real boar bristles were very dirty, tanned, and the celluloid itself appeared very unclean, yellowed, and stained. Sometimes celluloid attracts stains like magnets. And here again, why brush with an antique that’s comprised of camphor and nitrate? That’s asking for it if you want my opinion and icky. Now I don’t mind sanitizing the celluloid hair brushes or even the combs, but the celluloid combs never worked great for me.
Now the silverplate brushes make good dry skin brushes since the bristles are already broken in in some cases, soft, and likely made out of real boar hair, or similar bristles and not plastic since that wasn’t invented until the 1930s.
A dry skin brush routine also helps the skin breathe, helps blood circulation and the body release a build up of toxins. When I read about the dry skin brush and it’s advantages in a recent 2015 freebie vitamin magazine, I remembered late natural path Bernarr McFadden promoted doing the same along with friction ‘baths’ as he termed them. A friction bath is taking a dry towel and rubbing it all over your body. It is similar to a dry skin brush which he does recommend as well. And I decided to put my antique silverplate hair brushes to good use. After all I had neglected them for the past two years or so, and found some more recently to add to my collection.
The dry skin brush works best with a shower/bath brush. But the advice given in the vitamin magazine urged to avoid plastic bristle brushes because not only are they rough on the skin, but also plastics might contain harmful BPA’s as well. At any rate, I’m sticking with my silverplate brushes. Hope you enjoyed my blog. As always thanks for reading, commenting, sharing, liking, tweeting, re-blogging. I truly appreciate it! 🙂