From the Trade Paperback edition.
How to Locate a Matching Spoon for Your Grandmother’s Silver Set
My first project when I opened the Consider It Done office in New York was to arrange a move. I hadn’t been in town more than a week when I bumped into someone on the street who recognized me from Aspen. She had a friend who could use my help with his move. Of course I was game. It turned out it needed to be done right away. (I have theories on moving, one of them being that because people don’t like it, they put it off, and subsequently become even more frantic as the big day approaches.)
In this case, the client was moving, while his ex-wife was staying in the apartment. I got his items out of the apartment and moved into his new place smoothly and easily (see “How to Make Your Move Smooth and Easy,”), but then he called Saturday morning and said, “You have to help me get the artwork.” Of course I would help, I said, and I offered to schedule the art movers for first thing Monday morning. That wasn’t going to work. He wanted the art out immediately and wanted my help doing it. I mentioned the fact that it was pouring rain outside, but he didn’t care. So I arrived with a box of extra strength trash bags, some tape, and the biggest umbrella I could find. And we moved the art. Although I really don’t recommend this method for moving expensive (and um, yes, in this case museum-quality) artwork, I got the job done and managed not to ruin any priceless Picassos in the process. This was my first client in New York City.
Since this day over a decade ago I have arranged more moves than I can count. Moving often unearths many family treasures and I’m usually the person clients ask, “What should I do with this?” or “How can I find the missing pieces for my grandmother’s silver set?” This one can be particularly challenging, especially if the set is really old. But as you’ve probably realized by now, there’s nothing I like more than a good challenge.
To locate a matching item—say, a spoon—from an old silver set your first stop should be to check out www.replacements.com, where you can search by name for the particular set you have. That is, of course, if you know the name of the set you have, or the designer or manufacturer. Any of these pieces of information will get you one step closer, but nothing is guaranteed to be an exact match. Caution: If a vendor says that he has a knife from the same set and can custom make you a spoon, I would advise against it. I tried this once and the piece ended up looking like a spoon with a knife handle and quite honestly a bit weird. (The place did take it back at no charge.) Also, a custom-made utensil could be at a different stage of wear and tear and might not blend in with your set exactly.
In all likelihood, however, you may not have any information about the spoon other than what it looks like, or what other utensils in the set look like. In this case, try www.silversmithing.com. You can’t buy straight from this site, but you can browse through patterns, and if you see one that looks like yours, you’ll at least know what it’s called. Also, check auction websites, like eBay, which generally post photos of the items.
Anyone selling antique silverware online may have even more in stock, so even if you don’t see your particular pattern, feel free to contact the seller directly—you might find that she has a large antique warehouse and can help you find exactly what you’re looking for from her supply. Many sellers rotate the inventory that they post online, so this will cut out the waiting time.
But if you really want to be sure you have an exact match, photos won’t do. You need to see and feel the real thing. Instead of an online auction house, visit a real auction house. They may be old-fashioned, but they can actually be quite fun. Speak to the owner of the auction house, and find out the next time antique silverware will be up for sale. Be prepared to spend some money—but remember that it’s a family heirloom you’re replacing, and those are priceless.
If you can’t find the matching pieces that you need, consider selling what’s left of your set. Obviously it’s rare enough to be worth something.