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Repair Issues © Jeffrey Herman


The Removal of Engraving
Candlestick/Candelabra Thread Repair
Disposal Damaged Flatware
The Realities of Weighted Sterling
Silver With Loose and Deteriorated Components

Jeffrey Herman disclaims any responsibility or liability for damages or injuries as a result of any construction, design, use, manufacture, restoration & conservation advice, or other activity undertaken as a result of the use or application of information contained on this Web site.

The Removal of Engraving

A hand engraved monogram or any type of decorative engraving is part an object's history and unique to that piece. Removing engraving does not always make a piece more salable, especially if the engraving is of high quality – quality seldom seen today with the declining number of outstanding engravers.

Some tips for collectors and antique dealers debating whether or not to have engraving removed: (1.) If it is a tray or hollow piece, rub your fingernail under or inside to determine if the metal is thick enough to have the engraving removed. If you see a slight wave develop as you move your fingernail, the piece is probably too thin.

Remember, if the engraving is removed you run the risk of caving in that area with very little pressure.  Can you imagine setting a coffee pot on a footed salver and having it sink into the center? (2.) If you have never used a repair service, test the reliability of the silversmith with a small piece of damaged flatware first. A competent smith will do a great job or suggest that the repair not be attempted at all. (3.) If engraving is removed from a hollow form or tray and you would like it reengraved, have it done in a different area where the material is thicker. An engraved area, especially on a thin piece, will be rather weak.


If you must have engraving removed, take the piece to a competent smith, otherwise it may be ruined and the piece devalued. Engraving that has been expertly removed will be undetectable on the surface. Upon removal of deep engraving, on a coffee pot for example, the metal may have to be pushed out from the inside to develop a level surface.

Candlestick/Candelabra Thread Repair

Over the years, weighted candlestick and candelabra threaded inserts can become worn, allowing them to continue rotating in the corresponding sockets without properly “catching.” Redefining these threads properly can be quite costly, since the pitch that is used as a reinforcing cement must be removed before pushing out the threads from inside with special tools.

In most cases, you can repair the insert threads yourself, allowing them to fully engage the corresponding socket threads. Go to your local hardware store or furnace and duct supplier and ask for aluminum tape. This is aluminum foil with an extremely sticky backing. Take the section with the worn threads and cut a piece of aluminum tape the same width as the threaded section. Remove the backing and wrap the aluminum around the threaded insert and cut it as close as possible to meet with the other edge. It’s better to be a little undersize than have to overlap the seam.. Next, use finger pressure to massage the foil securely onto the insert. Finish the job by using your fingernail to trace the threads around the circumference of the insert, making them more distinct.

Gently screw the insert into the socket, testing how it “sits” without wobbling. If there is still substantial play in the socket, allowing the insert to continue spinning, wrap it with another layer of tape as described above.

Disposal Damaged Flatware

Has a piece of your flatware ever slipped down the garbage disposal? If so, you may have gone into shock in regard to its mangling. The spoon bowl may have been crushed, fork tines wrapped around each other, the handle folded in half or even chopped into many pieces. A monogram may also have been gouged. That piece of flatware, with the possible exception of hollow handled knives, need not be taken to the refiner; it most likely can be repaired to a functional state!

In order to correct the shape and finish of the piece during its repair, it is recommended to send a perfect duplicate piece for matching. Flatware that is highly ornamental, especially on the handles, may not be economical to restore. In this case you may wish to simply have any sharp or jagged edges smoothed to make the piece useful once again.

If you feel the piece doesn't warrant the repair expense, it can most likely be replaced through a silver replacement service. Since many patterns over time have been produced in different weights, it is best send a sample to the service to be matched.

The Realities of Weighted Sterling

The article below discusses weighted sterling that is reinforced throughout the entire object. These are pieces that would not be functional if the silver alone was their only support.

You just forced a candle into one of the candle cups of a weighted, two-arm candelabra. What you didn't expect to experience was the arm being ripped from its stem. Have you ever polished a candlestick and wondered what that rattling noise was? I know all too well what that sound is: its cement (most commonly pitch, which is made from various percentages of pine resin and plaster) had reduced in volume when it was first poured, then cooled inside the object, creating a void. This allowed pieces of this brittle material to break off and rattle inside that space. Weighted sterling may also contain, lead, wax, sand, or some other material for support. Since the sterling is very thin (I've measured metal thickness as thin as .003"), there is then not enough support for that area of your object to withstand a dent when lightly tapped against a hard surface. You'll also find pitch inside most dresser brushes and hand mirrors that probably show signs of denting from even the most cautious user. You may have seen a dresser brush with very deep embossing, revealing a cherub with a hole in its nose. At that very point, the material may have been only .002" thick when it came out of the factory. Sliding the brush over a dressing table a few times and heavy-handed polishing may have been all it took to go through that nose. If these pieces were not weighted, they would almost collapse! If you are the victim of one of these pieces, I know your frustration.

What you may not be aware of is that although your candelabra may weigh a hefty four pounds (64 ounces), in reality it contains only about 6.4 ounces (5.83 troy ounces) of sterling! Simplified, this means your candelabra is composed of 10% sterling and 90% pitch. So, if you wanted to scrap that candelabra using a $10 silver market, the refiner would pay you no more than $48. Something else to keep in mind: many refiners will also charge a refining fee of $50 or more. You just lost two dollars! Stunned? You're not alone.

Welcome to the sad reality of weighted sterling. When the silver companies first introduced objects that were made of this paper-thin sterling, they intended on making utilitarian holloware and dresserware that was more affordable to the mass-market. Though you may have thought you were purchasing a quality piece of silver, it later turned out to be nothing but aggravation in its use and cleaning.

Also, this thin material is not easily repaired. In fact, most restoration services will not work on weighted sterling. If you have a piece in need of repair, please e-mail detailed images of it for an estimate.

Candles and weighted sterling

Over the years I have repaired numerous weighted candlesticks and candelabras. Many of these repairs involved reattaching the tops of candle cups. The reason they become detached is because the candles are allowed to burn all the way down to the bottoms of the holders. The heat from the burning wick melts the pitch that fills the body of the cup and expands, pushing up the cup's top.

Handling weighted sterling

1. Do not display in a window where the sun will soften the pitch, possibly making the object or appendage droop.
2. Keep away from fireplaces and ovens.
3. Of course you would never put a weighted piece (or ANY sterling) in the dishwasher.
4. Always support a candelabra arm underneath when inserting a candle.
5. Never overtighten threaded candelabra arms or candlestick components.
6. Gently polish and support the piece when working on delicate areas.
7. Use only tepid water when rinsing polish from the object.
8. Never expose dresser brushes, hand mirrors, or related objects to liquids.
9. Do not soak weighted pieces as there may be voids in hollow areas that will fill with liquid.
10. Dresser brushes, hand mirrors, and related objects should always be gently placed on a cotton or flannel cloth on your dressing table to avoid unnecessary wear.
11. If you hear rattling, be particularly cautious in that area because it is not reinforced inside.
12. NEVER try to bend a weighted object back into shape as this will most definately make the problem worse.
13. Always feel free to contact me should you have any problems or questions.

Silver With Loose and Deteriorated Components

Over time, insulators, handles, finials, inserts, and other porous components of tea- and coffeepots, sauce pans, wine bottle coasters, hairbrushes, and the like can become loose and/or cracked. This may be the result of natural shrinkage, aggressive handling, or running water over the component and allowing moisture to enter the socket or ferule that holds it in place, causing rot that can't be seen. These susceptible materials include: wood, ivory, baleen, rhino horn, mother-of-pearl, and tortoise shell, among others.

Unstable objects that are used on a daily basis will only become more unstable over time. This can lead to crumbling insulators, a broken-off handle, or a warped coaster bottom, with additional damage occurring to the object's body. Here are some suggestions:

1. Always support a teapot or coffeepot from the bottom when holding it by the handle.

2. If a handle or brush is loose, have it secured by a reputable silver restoration specialist. Have broken or rotted components stabilized or replaced;

3. Never allow water to come into contact with porous components;

4. Remove dried polish with a cotton ball, Q-Tip, or soft brush;

5. With a lint-free cloth, apply three coats of a high-quality, crystal-clear carnauba paste wax which will protect against moisture and deterioration. This wax will also prevent silver polish from accumulating in wood pores;

6. It is safe to clean or polish an object if: (a) components are securely held in place and there are no gaps through which moisture can seep into hollow areas and (b) wax has been applied to the components. (Hairbrushes, nail buffers, and combs should be cleaned only with non-abrasive, unscented, aloe-free hand sanitizer, or with silver polish that is allowed to dry, and is then buffed off);

7. Periodically re-wax porous components;

8. Consult me should you have any questions.

Home Page About Me Before & After Images Services Offered Repair Issues Resources
 Frequently Asked Questions Silver Care Silver Glossary Shop Views The Library
Engraving Samples Testimonials Work Order.doc / .pdf Contact


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