My Mom recently moved into a smaller place, so my sister and I have been helping her to downsize her household.  Although my Mom has been enjoying her new living situation, this has been a stressful and somewhat depressing time for all of us.  It’s hard to go through the things that you’ve known all your life – that furnish the home you’ve known since childhood – and decide what to keep, what to sell, and what to just get rid of.

However, on a recent visit, my Mom and I spent the afternoon going through the many chests of silver flatware she collected during her years as an antique dealer.  Most of it is silverplate, of which there is only one matched set.  Yet, it’s a fascinating collection.  My Mom was nice enough to say that I could pick out whatever I wanted (other than the matched set, which my sister had requested) to make up a set.  Even though the matched set is beautiful, I actually preferred to make up a set from the unmatched pieces.  It takes the formality out of the gorgeous flatware to have an eclectic mix, which suits my lifestyle perfectly.  There are some monogrammed pieces (surprisingly, with the right initial!), some intricately patterned grape motif pieces, and some simpler, geometric styles.

The best finds, though, are the ones I’ll be able to use for tea parties: sugar shells, demitasse spoons, teaspoons, and butter knives.  I think my Mom has a special fondness for sugar shells; she had at least 10 that I could choose from.  Some of them had long, beautifully wrought handles with a simple spoon for the sugar; others had less ornate handles, but gorgeous spoons that actually resemble a shell.

The demitasse spoons are of all different styles and shapes as well.  Even though I know that demitasse spoons are more for coffee than tea, I may have to pull them out when I plan my tea parties just because they’re fun!  The teaspoons are beautiful as well, but not as much of a novelty as the demitasse spoons.

And because my collection includes pickle forks, grapefruit spoons, and seafood forks, I’ll need to come up with a fabulous menu to take advantage of these interesting pieces.  Perhaps some Japanese pickled vegetables to go with some green tea?  Or perhaps shrimp cocktail to pair with a nice Darjeeling?

I’m not sure what I’ll do with the shoe-button hook because I’m not planning to wear buttoned shoes any time soon.  But I do know that whenever I host a tea party, I’ll always think of my Mom.

This article written by Nancy Murphy originally posted in June 2012, image provided by author.