Heirloom silver serving trays, dishes, platters, teapots, candlesticks and utensils add a touch of tradition and elegance to holiday festivities. Unfortunately, keeping these pieces timeless requires special care to prevent silver tarnish from taking hold.
Tarnish, also known as silver sulfide, is that black film that accumulates over time on silver, giving it an appearance of grimy rather than gleaming. It’s the result of a chemical reaction that can be caused simply by exposure of silver surfaces to sulfides present in air, water or materials like felt. Silver is especially vulnerable in high-humidity or when an accumulation of oils or chemicals has built up, usually having rubbed off from skin contact.
If silver tarnish forms, a quick soap-and-water scrub isn’t going to cut it. It must be removed through tedious polishing. (The editors of Southern Living said that to refer to the task as time-consuming is “an understatement,” and recommend hosts set themselves to the chore three days in advance of a festive gathering.) Shortcuts can leave your cherished pieces worse for the wear. Some silver tarnish removers promise expedited polishing, but can pose a risk of damaging the surface quality of each piece.