Improving Your Spoons (Part One)

By Bill Gillham

Over-Polished Spoons

One of my more painful experiences was going into the shop of a well-known silver dealer enquiring after a particular flatware pattern and being shown tray after tray of glittering Georgian spoons and forks: crests and initials removed and the whole buffed up to 'make a set'. The dealer accepted my mild reproof: 'It's what people want', he said, 'a set where they all look the same'.

Well those 'sets' are beyond redemption but one still often finds spoons, otherwise sound, which have been over-polished - bowls, in particular, suffering from this treatment.

Is there nothing that can be done about this? Well, I use the following process, which may at first strike you as rather drastic; but it gives good results or, at least, a noticeable improvement. Here is what you need:

(i) Bleach - the 'thin' kind you use on clothes not the thick stuff you use in lavatory bowls.
(ii) A tall tumbler that will take a tablespoon upright.
(iii) A plastic container, which will take a tablespoon lengthways.
(iv) Goddard's Silver Dip.
(v) Goddard's Silver Foam.

Let us deal with over-polished bowls first, since this is the more common problem.

1. Pour some bleach into the tumbler as much as will cover the spoon bowl.
2. Put the spoon in the bleach and leave it there for one minute: it will soon start to go a misty bluish-grey colour - nasty-looking. At this stage you will start doubting me ... keep your nerve!
3. Wash the spoon under the tap, dry it and put it in the jar of Silver Dip - also for one minute. The colour will change a bit, but it will still look rather unhealthy.
4. Rinse the spoon under the tap again and then clean it with Silver Foam. All the nasty stuff will disappear but the edge will be taken off the brightness (this is most easily seen if you have more than one over-polished spoon so that you can make a before-and-after comparison).

Repeating the process adds an increment each time but you will notice that the discolouration is less. What is happening, of course, is that the surface of the spoon bowl is becoming oxidized as in the normal process of acquiring patination. I suggest you start off with a not particularly valued spoon (as I did); you will soon gain confidence and make your own variations in the technique.

If the whole spoon is over-polished then you need to go for total immersion - this is where the plastic 'bath' comes in - otherwise the process is the same. You will need two or three jars of Silver Dip, of course, although you can get by with 'painting' the dip onto the spoon with an artist's brush.

In succeeding articles I shall deal with the following: Removing scratches and small black specks from bowls. Straightening buckled bowls and bent handles. Uncurling bent-over bowl edges. Removing dents from bowls.

Much of what I shall write about I learnt from the late Martin Gubbins; the content of this first article is a development of some advice from that Wise Man of the Portobello Road, Wynyard Wilkinson.


The Finial, February/March 2003

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