Our workshop is privileged to work on pieces of all types of value, antiquity, and complexity. Restoring an antique takes careful time and precision, and we love taking in pieces that present interesting challenges for us. A few weeks ago, we took in a sterling coffee server that needed some professional restoration and I would love to share the process with you, if you would like to take a look…
This beautiful sterling coffee server belongs to a client who has a large collection of sterling pieces. The server was in pretty bad shape and had unfortunately been previously “fixed” by someone who (really) shouldn’t have touched the piece. The hinge was broken, rendering the server useless, and to make matters worse, it had lead solder on it from the bad repair job that preceded our work. Removing and fixing lead solder on silver requires special tools and care to remove. Also, the wooden handle was loose and needed to be refurbished. Add that to the series of dents and dings on the body of the server and we clearly had our work cut out for us.
When we take in a job we try our best to explain the repair process to the customer so that they feel comfortable with how we will address the piece. For this particular server, Lawrence, our silversmith, carefully removed the existing lead solder on the repair, which was further damaging the sterling silver around it. He then created a new hinge and hinge pin (the little cylindrical pin that holds a hinge together) and precisely replaced the hinge on the lid. All of this work requires the careful application of solder, heat, and technique to ensure that the hinge is not only aligned properly and works, but also so that it will last for another generation of wear.
Next, Lawrence addressed the dents and dings that spotted the server. To do this, he uses a series of very old custom tools which were passed down to our workshop by our original silversmiths, Anton and Dezo Rubesch. Each tool has a particular shape to it that helps Lawrence anneal and hammer out dents of different sizes, depths, and type. It can be very tricky work and while a dent may look superficial and easy to remove, often they are much more complicated than meets the eye.
Finally, the handle needed to be addressed. It was quite loose in its existing bracket so Lawrence tightened the pins and secured the alignment. The client wanted a slightly darker stain, so he hand-stained the wood to a deeper, richer color that would contrast well with the silver.
Once Lawrence finished his work it was time to pass the piece to our polisher, Stevie. Polishing is a deceptively difficult skill that requires experience knowledge of the different brushes, rouges, and pressures to apply to a particular piece. Without knowing what you’re doing, one can completely destroy a piece in the blink of an eye by getting it caught in a wheel or polishing too hard in a particular spot. Stevie expertly brought this coffee server to its original shine and Ana, our amazing manager, hand-polished the little spots and crevices that are difficult to reach on a machine. She then called our (thrilled) client and set up a time for him to pick up his finished piece so that she could go over the item in detail with him. In the end it was a complete team effort, just like most pieces we bring into our workshop.
Do you have any family heirlooms sitting around that aren’t quite up to their splendor? Bring them by and we’ll work our magic. You’ll be amazed!
Alexandria & Company is an Old Town-based workshop and design studio specializing in creating and restoring fine jewelry and silver hollowware. They are the in-the-know jewelers of Alexandria and have been serving clients out of their small workshop for decades. Tucked in their historic building on South Royal Street, the team at Alx&Co. brings a personalized, modern approach to their craft – this is not your average stodgy jeweler or antique shop. Visit them during their walk-in hours or online to view their collection of handmade fine jewelry or to drop off a repair project; or, if you’re feeling creative, make an appointment to talk about that custom design project you’ve been imagining.
121-B South Royal Street
Alexandria, Virginia 22314
Design Studio Walk-In Hours (all jewelry services): Wednesday – Saturday 12-6pm
Silver Workshop Walk-In Hours (all silver repair and restoration services): Wednesday or Friday 12-6pm, or by appointment
Appointments encouraged for custom design.