Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Silverplate silverplate and more silveplate

When I walk by the HUGE Birks store at the corner of Bloor and Bay, I know how they built it; silverplate. When I see the Henry Birks collection of important early Canadian (sterling) silver, I know how he bought it; silverplate. When I think of how many Birks stores there are across Canada, I know how they did it; silverplate.

Places like Birks, and in the past Ryrie and Ellis Bros made fortunes selling fancy pieces of silver plated serving ware to the masses, which were comparably affordable to sterling.

I would say from the 1970s going back entertaining was a BIG DEAL. No you didn't stop off at Dash Kitchen and pick up some Asian BBQ Pork Tenderloin, a side of Cranberry Couscous and Southern Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad on your way home from work. You stayed in your kitchen with your frilly apron on and cooked a HOME MADE meal June Cleaver style, probably a roast, mashed potatoes and a vegetable, and everything you cooked had a special dish it went into and a special utensil to serve it with, usually made from silverplate.

What this means today is that as we go onto archaeological digs into our mother’s and grandmother’s buffets and sideboards we see the glint of silver, packed away in cellophane or blue felt bags or simply tarnished from lack of use. They speak of traditions long ago that have sadly gone the way of the dinosaur (at least for the time being).

There will always be a use for the odd piece of silverplate, here and there. Perhaps a memento to remember a loved one by, or a nod to the past in honour of the way things used to be done, but current demand is nowhere near the supply. In the past, every good bride set up house with a bevy of silver serving pieces, today we’re lucky to find a couple in modern couple’s cupboards. Now with the Baby Boomers roaring towards retirement and downsizing and their parents moving into retirement residences we have all of this stuff to get rid of, and nowhere to put it.

You get the picture.

I guess the bright side of this story is that there is a burgeoning market in the Middle East for our mother’s silverplate. Iranian dealers can be found scouring local flea markets and estate sales for cheaply priced pieces that can be shipped back and marketed to an audience that still finds it beautiful and useful.

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