Back in the ’60s, many suburban homes had a silver set proudly displayed in the dining room. Our mothers had them and our grandmothers had them; they were in our friends’ houses and glimpsed in the dining room scenes on TV sitcoms.
The family silver sets were a tangible sign of success and a mark of class. In an era when people might be invited over, in coats and ties and cocktail dresses, for a fancy sit-down dinner, silver place settings and coffee pots might be used occasionally. And you always got the sense that your mother and grandmothers wanted to be ready in case the Queen of England unexpectedly dropped by for tea.
Over the years, our mothers inherited the family silver from our grandmothers, and now our mothers have no use for them any longer. So, our generation stores these ornate, scrolled, increasingly tarnished objects, but nobody uses them. I’ve never been served from a silver teapot or dish, or eaten with a silver spoon. No surprise there — silver is a pain to keep polished and probably gives food and drink a slight metallic tang, besides. I can’t imagine any of our friends serving high tea or inviting us for a formal meal with fine china and silver utensils.
So, what to do with this stuff? Kish did some did some digging and found that these once-treasured objects are not really worth much. No one is buying silver tea sets, so there is no resale market. If it’s sterling silver, it can be sold and melted down. And if it’s silver plate? Well, one woman Kish talked to said if there were little girls in the family they could use it to make their tea time play more realistic.
Imagine . . . from a prominently displayed source of family pride to little more than a kid’s plaything, in the course of one generation. What does that tell you about putting too much stock in material items?