This week at Polesden Lacey we have been cleaning Mrs Greville’s collection of silverware. It took 3-4 people four days to clean approximately 50 items from the Dining room, and about another 15 pieces from the Tea room. Our fingers were aching at the end of each day, but it was very satisfying to see the end result, and have everything buffed up ready to shine for Christmas!
Our workstation was set up in the Servery, which is next door to the Dining room and accessed through a jib door. The servery is an ideal place to work due to its proximity and it meant visitors can not only see our conservation in action, but also have access to a room that is not usually open.
We started by dusting each item using a very soft pony hair brush, and then used a Goddard’s silver cloth to buff, clean and polish. The cloths are ideal since they remove the tarnish yet leave behind a protective layer which protects the silver long term. If an item was in a particularly tarnished, we would use Goddard’s silver dip – sparingly! Since it takes off a layer of silver each time it is used, it is best to avoid using the dip unless absolutely necessary, and even more so if the object was silver plate rather than solid silver. We applied a small amount with a cotton wool ball, left it for no more than 30 seconds and rinsed it straight off. We then used a hairdryer to make sure no moisture was left in the nooks and crannies and finally gave the object a quick buff with the silver cloth in order to really bring out its shine!
We recorded our actions on a condition report for each item, which also contains a sketch of the object to mark on any points of damage – metal corrosion, scratches, dents or cracks.
Over-cleaning can sometimes be worse than under-cleaning which is why we always use the gentlest methods possible to clean an object, and we try to only clean the silver when necessary. Generally the silver gets cleaned once a year, although it does get dusted more frequently. Even after a year most of the objects are still looking pretty good, but it’s always nice to give it back some extra shine.
Why not come and see our sparkling silver collection for yourself?