Sunday, November 15, 1998
Aesthetics apart, silver has had its fan following not only in todays day and age but also for years now, for reasons that are steeped in tradition as well as fact, writes Harkiran Sodhi
SILVER is not as precious as gold in terms of value, but it is a very versatile medium. Used not only as ornaments, silver has made a niche for itself in many other uses, mugs, glasses, thalis, katoris, bowls decoration items and curios.
There are many people who find silver far more aesthetically appealing and less flashy than gold. Aesthetics apart, silver has had its fan following not only in todays day and age but also for years now, for reasons that are steeped in tradition as well as fact.
The dictionary defines silver as "a heavy metallic element with a brilliant white lustre." Historically silver has been popularly used for coinage. This constitutes a fairly minor portion of the metals uses in todays world.
Only 6 per cent of the world production of silver is used for coinage, while about 10 per cent is used for jewellery and sterling ware. The major portion of more than 40 per cent of all silver produced is used in photography, making use of the light-sensitive properties of silver compounds. The rest of the silver produced goes into various industrial and medical applications and into the silvering of mirrors.
Silver as a metal has been attributed with many healing properties which is one of the reasons why, traditionally, ears were pierced with silver rather than any other metal. Silver is called a pure metal. It tarnishes or changes colour on coming into contact with any substance that is acidic or not very pure in nature, which is perhaps why all utensils were at one time popularly of silver for all those who could afford it.
Silver, along with gold, platinum and mercury, is also dubbed as a noble metal. It does not oxidise readily when heated, nor does it dissolve in most of the inorganic acids. Due to its value it is also categorised as a precious metal, along with gold, platinum, iridium, and palladium. The best conductor of heat and electricity, silver, next to gold, is the most malleable and ductile metal known.
While it is harder than gold, it is softer than copper. The metal is not poisonous externally or internally when the amount is small, but most silver salts are. Colloidal silver finds usage as an antiseptic, germicide, astringent, as well as for water sterilisation.
Pure silver is beautiful to look at but only if it is kept in shining condition. As pure silver has a tendency to tarnish very easily, it needs to be cleaned regularly. A good quality silver polish and a soft cloth are often more than enough. Different polishes require different modes of application and it is very important to ensure that all the polish has been removed thoroughly later to ensure a shine.
Most polishes will simply require you to apply the polish and then rub it with a cloth till it is all cleaned off, finishing off with a polish with a soft clean cloth. There are other polishes, however, that recommend a wash in warm soapy water after the polish has been applied, to get it all off, followed by a drying down and then a rubbing with a soft cloth. Remember to wipe the polish off with one piece of cloth and then rub it lengthwise in long strokes with another length of cloth to give it lustre.
Intricately carved areas, filigreed portions of difficult to reach areas like behind the handle of your favourite silver teapot, are some spots that tend to get left out while being cleaned as they are not conveniently accessed. Such areas can be cleaned with a small-headed long handled soft brush like a soft bristled toothbrush.
Storing silver correctly can help in preventing it from tarnishing. If the silver you own came in a proper box lined with satin or flannel cloth then this is the best way to store it back. If you do not have a box with the silver originally then wrap the piece up in a soft clean cloth and store it in a box in a cupboard. For pieces that are particularly likely to get scratched, first wrap the piece in cotton wool and then in cloth to give it the added protection it needs.
If you are using your silver to either serve food or eats in, ensure that they are cleaned up as quickly as possible. Tea and coffee tend to stain the inside of the kettles and today it is better to simply serve hot water in your silver kettle leaving the coffee powder and tea bags on the side to be added in to the cups instead, and thereby saving your kettle from unnecessary stains.
Bowls and spoons used to serve food in should also be cleaned as quickly as possible. Try to avoid using silver to serve chutneys, pickles or anything strong, as they tend to stain the silver faster than most others do. Dry snacks are the best bet for silver containers as a whole.
If your silver piece needs to be repaired, remember to take it only to a reputed silver shop rather than compromise on the price and often even the quality of work by going to the not so well-equipped smaller dealers. Silver kettle handles are often prone to getting detached from the body of the kettle, and have to be fixed back on carefully. Some handles that are made of bone, or horn or even ivory in the case of older pieces are more difficult to fix back on and require an expert.
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