Silver plated flatware
My uncle gave us a set for our wedding that used to belong to my grandmother. For years we kept them in a box in a closet but recently I decided we should start using them for every day use.
The problem is, now the plating seems to be flaking off! Especially off the forks and spoons -- we see it and most certainly must be ingesting it.
Any suggestions for a remedy? Will they need to be shelved again for the rest of our lives??
Thanks for your help!
It should not flake off. The way silver is plated is not conducive to flaking. It will wear off with use and a lot of rubbing and wear, but ingesting silver will not harm you. In some cuisines in elaborate meals silver leaf and gold leaf are used as garnishes. I'd suggest that you wash it all very well and then get out some silver polish, Haggerty's is good, and polish it well.
Years ago some companies laquered silverplated holloware, not flatware to prevent tarnish and that would flake off with use. I cannot imagine it being done to flatware. You might try cleaning a particularly flaky piece with acetone (nail polish remover)
Usually electroplated nickle silver was marked EPNS. There is a bunch of Watson Bros.Staybrite on E-bay. I think I would consult with an antiques dealer who specializes in flatware. There are plenty around. The company dates back to about 1900-1940. What you are describing has me baffled. If it were an annealed product like old Sheffield plate it is possible that the silver might flake, in the old Sheffield, before electroplating was invented the base metal would be copper and the silver was a sheet of silver that was bonded to the copper base by rolling and heating. When electroplate came in the item to be plated, wusually a white metal base like nickel silver was placed in a vat with bars of silver and then was electrically charged and the silver would transfer to the pieces.(That is a very simplified explanation of the process) Flaking and peeling would not happen. It would just eventually wear off.
This is a new one for me. Sorry I can't really help you but do consult an antiques flatware dealer.
Well nail polish remover can remove the lacquer. I am just puzzled. As I said I worked in the table top business a long time not only as a salesperson, but buyer and silver appraiser. I have never seen the like! The acetone will not harm the plate but a good polishing will be needed afterwards. Try cleaning one piece by soaking in plain nail polish remover and see what happens.
The following is exerpted from the entry on "Nickel Silver" in Wikipedia. It still doesn't give any clue to what might be flaking off the flatware.
I have a pretty extensive collection of flatware and holloware- sterling, plate, coin, nickel, German and other materials - antique and modern but I've never had anything flake as you describe.
"Nickel silver is a metal alloy of copper with nickel and often but not always zinc. It is named for its silvery appearance, and contains no elemental silver...
Nickel-silver alloys are commonly named by listing their percentages of copper and nickel, thus "Nickel Silver 55-18" would contain 55% copper, 18% nickel, and 27% other elements, most probably entirely zinc. A two-element alloy may be named for its nickel content alone, thus NS-12 is 88% copper and 12% nickel...
Nickel silver first became popular as a base metal for silver plated cutlery and other silverware, notably the electroplated wares called EPNS (Electro-plated Nickel Silver)...
Nickel silver became widely used after 1840 with the development of electroplating, as it formed an ideal strong and bright substrate for the plating process. It was also used unplated in applications such as cheaper grades of cutlery."
Thanks for all the helpful advice. I suspect the flatware was lacquered after the fact as some people in my family seemed to believe that would prevent it from tarnishing. I will try soaking a teaspoon in nail polish remover and see what results I get.