4.01.2021

Sterling Silver, What's Not to Love?


I am really so very excited for this post today.  As you know I have a friend here in Atlanta that I estate sale with and run my shop alongside.  It has been a blessing to have another shop owner to chat with, shop with, and learn new things from the last six months. Nicole Letts is wicked smart, she is witty, and she has become a dear and treasured friend.  Her passion for things is similar to mine, but she has knowledge in areas I do not and this makes us truly helpful for one another.  One of her areas of expertise is sterling silver as she is an avid collector and hunter for the finest pieces.  I have learned so much from her about our own collection and how to spot and hunt for the best pieces.  I asked her to write three articles for you on sterling ... and today is the first of three.  You will truly love this piece. 

With that ... here is Nicole -

I distinctly remember when my love affair with sterling silver started. In fact, I have two crystal clear memories of the birth of sterling in my life. The first is Thanksgiving dinner at my Uncle Milton’s stately home in Mobile, Alabama’s historic district. My Uncle Milton is an amateur chef (not to be confused with a home cook). His meals are legendary in our family and always feature multiple courses. Even though I’m from Atlanta, I went to college in Mobile, and I somehow convinced my family of five to come see *me* for Thanksgiving one year, instead of me coming home to them. My uncle invited us to his house for a Thanksgiving meal for the record books. Besides preparing the most delicious meal which included oysters on the half-shell and coastal crawfish dressing, his table was dressed to the nines with a place setting of sterling and crystal at each spot. 


A few years later, ironically also while in Mobile, my mom and I wandered into Louise Doggett Antiques. Louise Doggett’s is legendary in Mobile. Brides register for their sterling (and sometimes other pieces too) in her quaint store on Sage Avenue. I remember posting a photo on Instagram of a table filled to the brim with sterling (you can still see it here!). A sorority sister of mine commented that she noticed her pattern, and asked me if I would be registering for sterling for my own wedding. To be honest, I hadn’t thought of it, but when I got back to Atlanta, I went straight to Beverly Bremer for a lesson. I registered for Buttercup by Gorham on the spot.


Since then, I have been a bit of a connoisseur of sterling silver, and every shiny object from flatware to candlesticks and even trinket dishes gets a good once over from me. I’m scouring for the word “sterling.” Sometimes it’s buried under decades of tarnish. Sometimes it’s faded from the many hands that have held it before mine. However, when it’s there, a smile crosses my face. I’ve found a treasure. 

While first adopted, as with so many chic things, by the French as early as the 17th century, sterling silver flatware rose in popularity during the 18th and 19th centuries. During that time, it was considered unsanitary and frankly, unacceptable, to touch food without some sort of flatware. 

During that time, besides adding to the pomp and circumstance of outrageous dinners with multiple courses, sterling flatware was perhaps best known for its antimicrobial properties. In fact, the phrase “born with a silver spoon” comes from the use of sterling silver flatware. Those in the wealthier classes were less likely to develop diseases, in many cases, due to their sanitation which included the use of sterling silver when eating or drinking. 


Homes, of course, were decked in other sterling silver pieces including candelabras, sterling silver Revere ware bowls, reticulated candy dishes, napkin rings and even frames. 

Other households across the world began adopting sterling as its everyday flatware, too, and it continued to become the norm to have enough sterling for every member of the family along with several guests. However, as lives became more and more hectic, and as grand dinners became more and more infrequent, sterling silver flatware became less of a part of a daily meal and more a part of a special occasion celebration. 

Today, sterling silver is making a true comeback thanks not only to a longing for traditional decor and a slower paced lifestyle, but also because of the ease of the metal. It is durable and does not easily tarnish. As long as you use your pieces regularly, you won’t have to so much as glance at a jar of Wright’s

Even better? Sterling shops today actually recommend putting your sterling in the dishwasher. To do so properly, make sure your detergent is citrus free, and keep any stainless items away and not touching any sterling. Trust me! I do this all of the time. Works like a dream! 


For that hard to clean tea set that’s truly decked in tarnish, a simple solution of simmering water, salt and baking soda poured over a foil-lined sink will help the gunk loosen. You’ll still need some elbow grease, but it will certainly give you a head start. 

If you don’t have your own sterling pattern, start one! Or simply pick-up pretty pieces as you see them. While I do focus on collecting my coveted Buttercup, I also shop for any other pretty pieces that I think would pair nicely with it. 

The best place to start a collection is with serving pieces…but I’ll have more on that later. In the meantime, I urge you to get that sterling out this weekend. And no, not just because it’s a holiday weekend. Because it’s fabulous! 

Nicole will be back in three weeks with another article ... this one to help identify your beloved silver pieces.  Happy Thursday!

Images 1,7 via Eddie Ross, Modern Mix
Images 2 - 6 via Beverly Bremer Silver Shop

2 comments:

  1. My now-late Mother gave me her sterling silver at my wedding shower which was held at the Jefferson Hotel and given by a friend of my husband's family because that is how you do things in Richmond! - and in a beautiful engraved box. My grandmother started her silver (French Provincial by Towle) at the end of WWII when silver finally began to be available. It will go to my niece, Katie, who is engaged but due to Covid, we have yet to have a shower for her. However, I have wonderful photos of her at my shower, helping me open my gifts (she was 6 years old with a giant hair bow!) and in particular, the silver box. I do use the silver every day and truly enjoy it. The silver will go to Katie at her shower - with the photos and a note on my engraved Crane's - my mother raised me right even though I am a true blue Yankee! What a great post, too! I have lots of sterling pieces from my late MIL which I also use and really enjoy. Looking forward to more posts from you and Nicole...Susan

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  2. Love -- can't wait to read the other articles! Dishwasher - had NO idea that this was an option.

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