Why Sterling Candlesticks?

This post has absolutely nothing to do with law, police, courts or décolletage. If that’s your only interest here, run away. Fly like the wind. There’s nothing here for you.

The wedding of the son of a dear friend of Dr. SJ and I is coming, and so I set out to find our wedding gift for him.  We’ve known him since birth, and he’s a wonderful young man.  His parents are great people, with whom we’ve shared good times and bad.  When it came time to pick out a gift, there was no question what to get.  Antique sterling silver candlesticks.

Huh?  Is the groom into sterling candlesticks?

Probably not.  Few young men are “into” sterling candlesticks, especially these days when disposable plastic things with chips inside are far more alluring.  So why?  Why not buy the happy couple something they will want rather than something really weird, like sterling candlesticks?  Excellent question. Let me explain.

First, I note in passing that we got them a Cuisinart for the wedding shower. We’re not totally impractical.  But when it comes to the wedding, we give a gift with purpose and a message.

Antique Sterling Silver Candlesticks

That they’re antique, by which I mean over 100 years old, is to remind them that there was a world long before they were born, and there will be one long after they die.  These are items that were held in the hands of people who have long since left this planet, and have endured.  As they go through life, through marriage, they need to keep perspective on where they fit into the universe. It keeps us humble and appreciative of our brief time on earth so that we make good use of it.

That they’re sterling silver serves to provide a two-fold message. First, they were crafted by an artist, a silversmith who struggled to master his craft so that he could create something of enduring beauty and refinement.  Every time you look at a piece of antique sterling silver, consider the skill a person must have had to create such a thing.

Consider the days, the years, spent honing those skills.  Mastery couldn’t be concealed behind rhetoric or excuses; there was an object that either proved the silversmith’s abilities or not.  There were no lies then, and certainly no lies 100 years later when someone touched the sterling, felt its weight and balance, the delicate line that would differentiate between a vulgar blob of metal and an exquisite object.

The second message is that sterling silver tarnishes. It requires care, constant case, to maintain its beauty.  Fine things require that care to remain fine things. Yes, that means work. There will be times they don’t feel like polishing the silver, and it’s just another chore they don’t feel like doing.  Much of success in life is another chore you don’t feel like doing.  That’s a choice we all have to make, because if we decide not to bother, then it will sit there, tarnished and ugly.

I give candlesticks because they are simultaneously useful and decorative.  They are lovely to look at, but then, so is all fine antique silver.  But if the electricity goes off, they will provide light. They are just as useful today as they were 100 years ago, given the circumstances.

Yet, there is more meaning to the gift than just this.  The sterling silver candlesticks had intrinsic value when they were made, and 100 years later, still have intrinsic value.  Unlike the latest shiny iToy, which will be adored until the next coolest thing comes out, these candlesticks will hold their value, perhaps even appreciate in value, 25 years from now.  They will be just as beautiful and valuable when they are handed down to their children someday, to start the cycle anew.

There is a fairly good chance that when the loving couple opens their gift, holds it up to the light to try to figure out how to plug it in, and glances at each other in puzzlement, they will put it aside for a box to be marked “whatever.”  We recognize this risk.  Life is full of risks.  But that too is part of the message.  We can only try, and wish them our deepest hopes for happiness.

22 comments on “Why Sterling Candlesticks?

  1. Bob

    Well said. Youth may be wasted on the young, but wisdom, if acquired early, is a gift that keeps on giving.

  2. william doriss

    No mind, never matter,… no matter, nevermind.
    A good posting. We antique dealers could not say it better.
    Sterling silver candlesticks have not been doing well, but we like them anyhow. Old hurricane lanterns as well.

    1. SHG Post author

      I love antiques, from cars to watches to silver to homes to scientific objects to furniture to art and more. But of the many things I appreciate, probably nothing speaks more to me than Georgian sterling. I may be the only man who loves to polish it, awed by both its feel and beauty, and the skill required to create it.

      Antiques go in and out of fashion. I only pray enough people appreciate them so that they aren’t tossed away as “old stuff” by some youthful Philistine who sees them only as a burden.

        1. SHG Post author

          No. If they want to ask, I will happily explain in as much detail as they can stomach. If not, they can figure it out for themselves. I hope they pick the latter. They will have much to figure out for themselves, and need to be self-reliant.

  3. Kathleen Casey

    Candlelight makes the face of the one you love glow. Ever notice?

    How many candlesticks?

  4. Felicia Herman

    What a lovely gift! It’s even more appropriate if the couple is Jewish.

    I hope that they treasure them properly.

    1. SHG Post author

      While I understand why you raise religion, it has absolutely nothing to do with it for me. There is no religious aspect to the message at all.

  5. Erik Hammarlund

    Sterling candlesticks are one of those things that are better, somehow, if someone gives them to you than if you go buy them for yourself. China is like that as well–we’d never buy it but we’re super-happy to have an old family set. Good call.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’re right. There are some things that are much better given. Best, handed down. And if your parents have nothing to leave you, make sure you have something to leave your children.

  6. PaulaMarie Susi

    Amazingly awesome gift! History and continuity is a special message to impart to the young, I hope they get the message. I wish them a very happy and healthy life together.
    Excellent post.

  7. Wheeze The People™

    Sterling Candlesticks are highly recommended by Col. Mustard to properly appoint the Study . . .

    And BTW, ’tis a very insightful marital metaphor you constructed. If I ever get married again, I’m gonna exchange antique sterling candlesticks instead of rings, place them on the mantle, watch them tarnish, and wait to see how long it takes for either my new spouse or the maid to polish them back to a beautiful sparkle, amiwrong?? . . .

  8. Allen

    My father was an antique dealer, who got into the business from a deep love of older things. I thus grew up in a house where hardly a piece of furniture was newer than a century old (and slept in a circa 1800 mahogany rope bed). I inherited a lot of it. My kitchen chairs are colonial–I don’t know what they’re worth, but despite being more than 2 centuries old, they’re still solid enough that I happily climb up on them to replace lightbulbs or to hang pictures. They’re things that hold up, that you can depend on, and that link you to the past.

    That said, though, I’ve got a Victorian tea set that is way to elaborate for my table, and which is almost a full day’s job to polish. Georgian silver is a much better choice, and is a lovely gift.

    1. SHG Post author

      A specific reason for candlesticks is their utilty. I have a tea service, and it’s lovely, but it sits there. When the lights go out, I turn to my candlesticks. They still serve a purpose today, just as they did the day they were made.

  9. AlphaCentauri

    My parents had a lovely truce. He could watch all the football he wanted if he polished the silver during breaks between plays.

  10. Ken Bellone

    While, I typically read your blog for your legal perspective and biting wit, which I do not possess in your abundance, I found this piece to be one of the best to date.

    The messages of time, craftsmanship, utility, care and maintenance say much about life and marriage. A beautiful and thoughtful perspective. Despite not quite yet hitting the half-century mark on this planet, I have spent more than 27 years in the company of one woman, my beautiful wife. I have learned most of these lessons over that time, some in ways more difficult than necessary. I hope the bride and groom understand the meaning behind your gift, but even if they fail to, it gave me a little food for thought today. Thank you, Scott.

  11. MildlyDisturbed

    Might I interest you in a pair of antique silver Asian bud vases to go with your candlesticks?

    [Ed. Note: Link deleted per rules.]

    1. SHG Post author

      While there’s nothing wrong with Asian bud vases, they don’t do it for me and don’t quite serve the utility function of candlesticks. I have a strong preference for Georgian sterling.

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