Personal Passions: Joe on Silver
Joe Goodwin here.
Of all the things we sell, I’ve always been the most interested in silver. Back in the day, people had dining rooms and filled them with all the accoutrements: candelabra, candlesticks, claret jugs, muffin dishes, cutlery, and condiment sets, to name just a few items. These are beautiful objects, hand-crafted, expensive, and designed for daily use.
My wife and I still have all those things at home, as do my parents. I guess you could call us old-fashioned. But silver is not only a great investment, it’s beautiful to look at and live with. Each piece carries a legacy of memories about our family and friends. We love that continuity, and we’re creating our own family memories for the children by adding to our collection, using it, and eventually, passing it along.
One of the things I most love is the patina you find on old silver. Silver from the 17th and 18th century tends to have a softer, bluer bloom than you find on Victorian or modern silver. I put that down to hundreds of years of being handled, cleaned and polished. You can’t reproduce that without it looking contrived, nor do you want to remove patina that’s taken hundreds of years to build up.
Picture a properly set dining room table with candlelight picking up on the silver and on the veneer of the table. Everyone loves seeing a table set like that, but very few people are doing it themselves. I understand that if you’re living in a modern flat where everything is from Ikea, putting out Victorian silver is jarring. It doesn’t fit.
Nevertheless, I love engaging with beautiful old things made by craftsmen. When you pick up a piece of silver cutlery that’s properly made, it’s perfectly weighted in the hand. These pieces were crafted by people who spent their entire lives perfecting their skills. There was no computer assisted design — there were artisans in Sheffield making cutlery. It has a lovely feel and look — and it is usable. You definitely should use it on a regular basis rather than putting it in a display case to admire from afar.
Where else in the house might you incorporate silver pieces? I cited a few examples earlier, but look around — what about flower vases? You might use a campana vase or a silver flute with a lovely polish to it. It’s wonderful to think that this vase has been holding flowers for 120 years, and is still doing that job and still looks great.
We always have silver bon bon dishes dotted around our house and we also have silver cigarette boxes. Smoking is unpopular, I know, but you can put other things in these boxes, as well. Having said that, when we are entertaining we always have a box stocked with two different brands, so that if someone wants to smoke they can. Again, it’s about old fashioned hospitality. Growing up, I remember Mum and Dad didn’t smoke, but they always had cigarettes on hand for their guests.
Back in the dining room, don’t forget wine buckets, which are beautiful objects in their own right. At home I have a Sheffield cooler from 1820, in the traditional campana style. It’s big enough to hold two bottles.
To my mind, living with silver is about living with elegance, and it’s about hospitality. My wife and I enjoy entertaining so our pieces are used. Owning silver is a way of investing in yourself, as well. A lot of people live amid disposable items. Silver is not disposable. It was — and is — designed to last hundreds of years, and holds both an intrinsic and an aesthetic value. That means it’s a way of investing your money and enriching your life at the same time.