All That Glitters

As I have written before, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure (see my earlier post of that name).  But what happens when you inherit another man’s treasure?   If something was important to someone you loved, does it become important to you?

When my mother passed away two years ago, she left behind her beloved silver-plated flatware.  Like many women of her generation, my mother believed in pulling out her fine china, tablecloths, and silver-plated flatware whenever we had company.  After everyone went home, my mother would hand wash all the dirty dishes, and one of us children would carefully dry everything and stack it up.  My mother made a rule that my father couldn’t take out the garbage until the silver had been washed, dried, and counted, in case a piece had accidentally been thrown away.  The flatware would then be returned to its felt-lined box and put away until next time.

As the years went by and my mother’s health deteriorated, the silver came out less and less often.  I hadn’t seen it in many years when we discovered it at the bottom of her closet in the months after she died, along with a sterling silver flatware set that she had inherited from a relative.  Last fall, my sister drove both flatware sets to my apartment and I was tasked with selling or donating them.  My sister and I are very practical, and neither of us wanted the extra maintenance required of using sterling silver or silver-plated flatware.

I did some research and discovered that a major player in the buying and selling of fine china, crystal, and flatware is Replacements, Ltd.  (www.replacements.com).  Replacements is where you would go if you broke a plate — or threw a piece of flatware away with the garbage — and wanted to find one in the same pattern to replace it.  They have thousands of patterns available.  To keep their inventory stocked, they buy china and flatware piecemeal.

What I discovered was that sterling silver is still in demand, but silver-plated is not.  Replacements gave me a nice offer to buy the sterling silver set, but they were buying very few of the pieces in my mother’s silver-plated set — certainly not worth breaking up the set for.   I contacted a local silversmith, whose response was the same.

Ultimately, I sold the sterling silver flatware via another website called Antique Cupboard (www.antiquecupboard.com) which is like Replacements but specializes in silver.  They gave me a better offer than Replacements did, and they also paid for the cost of shipping it to them, which Replacements does not.

As for my mother’s beloved silver-plated flatware, I donated it to the thrift shop down the block which is affiliated with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  The proceeds go to support programs at the hospital, which has treated most of my immediate family.  I think my mother would approve.

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