How to Care For Your Fine and Decorative Art

Andre Bouys (1656 – 1740), La Récures (1737)

Keep art and furniture away from direct sunlight. Art, especially paper, photographs, textiles and wood can warp, lighten in color and cause the material become very dry and brittle. Ultraviolet light can also cause severe and often irreversible damage.

Do not store fine art, furniture, silver and carpets in basements or attics. These areas are susceptible to dramatic temperature fluctuations, flooding, leaks, heat, humidity and dampness. Pay attention to any art, furniture pieces with marquetry and metals in bathrooms where long, steamy showers are taken.

Do not touch the surface of PAINTINGS. Hands contain harmful oils, naturally and from lotions, as well as lack of adequately washing. One finger can cause a slight depression and send waves of crackling the surface later in time. Mats and framing materials must be acid-free and check the back of PRINTS for acidic cardboard reinforcement.

Clean and oil wood on FURNITURE regularly. Wood, though considered dead, is much like the hair on your head. Both hair and wood need to be cleaned and moisturized. Chemical cleaners and moisturizers are harmful, use products with simple, natural ingredients. Furniture oils moisturize, as well as enhance the appearance; apply a thin coat of wax annually. Never use spray wax.

Handle STERLING SILVER carefully to prevent scratches, nicks and dents. Greasy finger prints can contribute to tarnishing. After washing, dry thoroughly to prevent any water leaving marks that will become permanent with time (note the picture above). Do not store silver in plastic bags, do not bind flatware with rubber bands, do not leave salt or liquids on or in any pieces. Use a high quality paste to polish silver, never dips and never toothpaste which contains baking soda and is much too abrasive.

Be patient when polishing silver. Too much haste and you can bend, twist or dent the silver. The aluminum foil technique is quick and easy, but harmful to your silver as it strips away the natural patina, the original factory patina (particularly with the intricate Art Nouveau patterns) and pits the surface making it tarnish even faster.

Do not place flatware in your dishwasher. Regardless of what Martha Stewart says. Dish washing detergent begins to pit and dull the silver over time, it turns  the once rich lustrous patina into a grey-white flat tone. The sloshing hot water can leave spots and the dry cycle is too hot. Sterling is 92-1/2% silver and 7-1/2% other alloys including copper which gives the silver greater durability. It is the copper that can have a reaction to the detergent, even just to hot water. Furthermore, the hot water begins to loosen the hollow handles from the stainless knife blades.  Water can become trapped in the handles and further force this separation.

If one prefers to use the dishwasher for convenience, then a safe idea is after soaking the flatware in tepid sudsy water (use Ivory liquid soap and not for too long), simply put the flatware on a short delicate and warm rinse cycle without using detergent, remove it from the dishwasher immediately and towel dry thoroughly. Don’t mix your stainless in with silver. Silver and stainless can create a chemical reaction, producing black spots.

Hand wash CRYSTAL in warm water, never hot. Do not put in the dishwasher. Rinse out whisky and wine remnants. Remove lipstick marks promptly. Don’t use a scouring pad or even the rough side of a sponge. Lead crystal is soft and will scratch so easily.  Store your stemware upright, not on the rims, as the edge of the crystal is more likely to weaken and chip. The time it takes to care for your fine crystal is worth it. Wine and bourbon tastes better in crystal and it looks great under candlelight.

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