Silver tableware makes a useful and valuable family treasure, and antique silver spoons are especially collectible. The key is to care for the spoons properly, since over-polishing or using the wrong products can damage the silver.
Everyday Silver Care
Silver cutlery receives a slight, constant polishing from regular use. If you use your antique silver, you probably only need to polish it every few years if at all. Ordinary washing is enough. Hand-wash with a mild washing-up liquid or a dishwasher without the dry cycle. Be sure to dry the silver completely by hand before storage, and do not let silver soak in water for an extended period. Lastly, never store silver in any material that contains sulphur.
Removing Mild Tarnish
Pure silver and sterling silver do not rust or oxidize the way that iron or copper does. Some silver alloys do oxidize and require different care. Silver tarnish is a yellowish to black film that results from a chemical reaction with sulphur compounds found in the air or in packing materials. Just wipe off mild, yellowish tarnish with a clean and soft silver polishing cloth.
Removing Heavy Tarnish
Heavy tarnish does not wipe off, but it does wash off in a simple chemical bath. Boil a solution of either baking soda and water or vinegar and water either in an aluminium pan or with some aluminium foil, and let the silver soak in the hot mixture for a few minutes. Afterwards, rinse and dry the silver thoroughly.
Silver polish is a mildly abrasive substance that scrubs tarnish away. While the chemical bath method is better for several reasons, silver polish does work. The caveat is that many polishes are also toxic. If you must use polish, read the warning labels and choose something as non-toxic as possible. Ordinary toothpaste also works; however, most brands are too abrasive to use on an antique silver spoon.
What Not to Do
Do not give antique silver collectables like spoons a mirror shine. Silver is relatively soft, so over time, it accumulates very tiny scratches that give the surface a soft, matt finish called a patina. Removing the patina damages the decorative detail on the spoon and destroys much of its collectors' value. Generally, over-polishing silver is worse than under-polishing it because tarnish does not actually damage silver. A little black tarnish on a spoon's handle even makes its decorative elements stand out better. However, rapidly tarnishing silver does indicate a serious problem, since the sulphur compounds that cause it are very toxic to humans.