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Friday, July 31, 2009

Mother Of Pearl!!! Is That An Heirloom, Batman?

Sometimes it pays to reach 'way up high on your shelves. . . .

I'm tagging along for the Heirloom Party, hosted today by Marie at Emma Calls Me Mama.
Click here for more hand-me-d0wn treasures.

And as usual on Fridays, I am Hooked On something . . . this time, finding heirlooms I forgot I had!
Join Julia at her Hooked On Houses blog, here, too see what else folks are hooked on today.


The other day I was rummaging through my old kitchen cupboard shelves, looking for a misplaced cell phone charger,
and I reached up and took this chubby little guy down from the top shelf:

I think he is silver plate, but he's quite tarnished -- in finish, if not in reputation.

He belonged to my mother, one of her many yard-sale and church bazaar finds.
I am not sure if he is an open sugar bowl, or maybe . . .

a spooner!

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the sugar and the spooner,
but -- no matter. What is interesting about this little fellow is what I found inside him:

Can you guess what they are?

They are hand-carved.

And very, very old.

They were used every day by my grandparents.

Yes, these are my grandparents' napkin rings.

Years ago, napkin rings were not just decorative items for table settings; laundry was no easy matter,
so you used your napkin for more than one meal, and your own ring identified your napkin as yours.

I remember these on the sideboard at Grandma's house; I always loved them.

Last year, when we were clearing things from my parents' beach house, I found these on a kitchen shelf and,
wanting to make sure they were safe, I brought them home -- inside my Mom's little silver plated bowl.

And forgot about them.

They are in perfect condition, if you look past some schmutz.
I'm a little afraid to clean them. What is safe to use on shells?
Or should I leave more than a hundred years of schmutz right where it is?

And ... anyone have a suggestion for a good, mild silver cleaner?
Friar Tuck here needs a little help:

It's Friday, folks -- go have fun. We are picking up a coffee table tomorrow; 99-cents! -- Cass


  1. Those napkin rings are gorgeous. I did not KNOW the story of their every day use either. Whoooo hoooo - - - something new to add to my day.

  2. I love love the napkin rings! What a wonderful treasure you have! The lovely bowl! Too
    Go see Debbie, at Confessions of A Plate Addict, she did wonders with a silver cleaner! I need to get the name I keep forgetting it! lol

  3. Always error on the side of caution. I would be very hesitant to use anything on these other than a soft damp cloth. They are probably very porous.
    Also with the silver, shiny is not always the best look.

  4. Cass, the napkin rings are lovely! I wouldn't know how to clean them, I'm afraid. The bowl is also pretty! Thanks for sharing them with us!

  5. Oh those are fabulous! You must have great memories of them and have always wished they could be yours when you were little. Lisa~

  6. What lovely treasures! I am visiting via Hooked on Houses.
    Please drop by and enter my giveaway.

    Have a blessed weekend!

  7. Awesome that you took those to keep safe. They're beautiful! I'd use that silver thing for a spooner if I had it. So pretty.

  8. They are so pretty, I would not clean them. I have used a silver cleaner that comes in a little tin called "Silvo" It seems to be mild and works great.

  9. What wonderful napkin rings. Yes, in the old days, you laundered napkins once a week -- you wanted to make sure you got YOURS back!

  10. I've used toothpaste for silver cleaning - it is mild and easy on your hands too - and smells nice if you get a minty one - though any cheap kind works.

    The napkins are lovley. We inherited some beautiful red/cream woven napkins from Don's grandparents - they were their everyday napkins (held in their personal napkin rings) and there are two that are much more worn and faded than the others - these were used by his grandparents - the others were saved for guests and not used as often.

  11. I really love the silver bowl, Cass. I never heard the word "spooner". Explain that to me when you have a chance for I have been living under a rock.

    I love the story of the napkin rings, another little ditty I didn't know! And at the rate I do laundry, my family's napkin rings would have more schmutz on them than yours!!


  12. I would never have guessed that they were napkin rings! That's such a great idea - our ancestors were so much more practical than we all are today, sometimes. I might have to start doing that here, because I can't keep up with all of this laundry!
    xo, Andrea

  13. How fun to find those beautiful napkin rings inside that beautiful bowl. I see a great tablescape coming! laurie

  14. I wouldn't mess with the silver. I prefer it the way it is. Only the gentilest touch on the napkin rings. Isn't it great to make an unexpected connection with your Grandma.

  15. I did not know that about the napkin rings. I'm so glad you have them and the silver bowl is beautiful!

  16. Great treasures. Sorry - no advise on what to clean them with. Coffee table for 99cts. - wow!

  17. Hello Cass - thank you for joining the party! Oh my word. Those napkin rings are FAB! So unique. And what a great story you have to go with them. I'm so glad you found 'em! A jeweler once told me to clean my mother of pearl ring with oil. It works. You might try it. If not, the schmutz is part of their character! I love that silver spooner (I like that name). The shape is so cool.


  18. I love those rings..I am sure just soap and water would clean them as much as you wanted. I, too, would be afraid to put too much on them. I love your little silver spooner..

  19. What a treat it must have been to find those rings. I love those connections to the past - the little things are really, often, the best.

  20. Hi Cass :)

    I love surprises like that! The spooner and the rings are beautiful :)

    I also learned something today! I didn't know that was why they used napkin rings.


  21. Not sure if you will ever get this information but just in case...

    A simple home made silver cleaner that doesn't hurt the silver or involve any intensive labour comes from Haley's Hints I've used it many times so I know it works.

    "To clean tarnished silverware --Run a quart of hot water into the sink. Dissolve one tablespoon of washing soda (or laundry water softener) and one tablespoon of salt into the water. Place a sheet of aluminum foil on the bottom of the sink and place your tarnished silverware in the mix. Silver that is touching the foil and covered with water should become clean in 10 seconds."

    With regards to the mother of pearl a very mild soap and water or a dry cloth is best, nothing abrasive. It must be completely dry before storing it as well and needs to be wrapped in soft cloth to protect the nacre which over time can wear off. Don't store it next to metal as this can damage it.

    I love family heirlooms and stories that go with it, thank you for sharing yours I really enjoyed it.

  22. To the kind person who wrote the last comment -- thank you so much! I am going to try this silver cleaning method; it looks much safer for old pieces than chemical cleaning.

    I haven't found a way to answer you directly, sorry!


  23. Cass,
    You are very welcome. I thought since this post was made so long ago that you wouldn't know if anyone had responded more recently, I'm glad you got the information.

    I'm not a Blogger (I just love to read blogs) nor do I have a google account so I couldn't leave you a method of contact, plus it didn't occur to me that you would want one LOL.

    Good luck with the silver cleaning. :)


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