By Chris Christen
I ring the bell at the landmark Brandeis Mansion, and within seconds Mark Maser greets me with a firm handshake and a broad smile. I haven't been inside this 9,500-square-foot gem since the 2009 Designer Showhouse event. Maser gives me a quick tour. I feel as if I'm in a museum amid Maser's period pieces. I could look for hours but lunch awaits in the formal dining room.
You said lunch would be “no big deal.” I know that's a fib when the table is set with china, silver and crystal, and wine clearly is accompanying the meal.I have dishes “maximus” and lots of table toys. I suspect it's more than that.Gracious living doesn't seem unusual to me because I've been doing it since I was born. We were the banker family in town. My mom was in PEO, Junior League and church circles. We always set the table for meals.”
You love to cook?
I'm like a short-order cook. I use whatever happens to be on-hand. I take inventory and search online for recipes by those keywords. The china is gorgeous. You have a good eye for pattern play. I like to mix it up. The china is Royal Worcester. I bought it at an estate sale when I moved into the neighborhood 20 years ago.
You're known for your sterling.
Yes, I collect all manner of gorgeousness in silver.
What got you started?
Joella Cohen at the Omaha Auction Center had a set of Wallace Grand Baroque (sterling, 1941) flatware. I left a $1,000 bid but didn't expect to get it ... But it was Sally Maxwell (from Maxwell House Antiques) in Sioux Falls (S.D.) who really drew me in.
You bought her collection?
Eventually, yes. And now I have every piece of Grand Baroque ever made. China and stemware don't have the same power over you? "I'm a boy. I won't break silver.”
Maser is director of marketing and development for Joslyn Castle Trust. His silver inventory includes Versailles, the same pattern in Sarah and George Joslyn's estate. Maser also has an impressive inventory of Georgian by Towle, Wedgewood, Tiffany, Rose Point by Wallace, Richelieu, Royal Danish, Strasbourg by Gorham and Reed & Barton.
MASER'S SILVER-CLEANING METHOD
Mark Maser cleans his silver inventory every 18 months. It takes him about a week to make his way through the flatware drawers in his showroom. His pointers:
Place flatware in hot, hot, hot sudsy water in a sink. Allow to soak several minutes to loosen dirt. Rinse flatware with fresh water and roll a few pieces at a time in paper towels to dry.
Try Hagerty silver polish or Wright's Silver Cream over a liquid polish to minimize waste. Apply cleaner with a damp sponge. Use a circular motion to work cleaner into a paste. When paste turns chalky white, buff with soft cloth. “Never use Tarn-x metal cleaner; it's too strong for silver. It's especially dangerous with silver-plated pieces.” Ditto for baking soda and hot water.
Store sterling flatware in a felt-lined box. Plastic wrapping traps moisture and hastens tarnishing.
Maser's advice on re-plating silver sets: “It depends on what it is, why you have it and what you want to do with it. If it's a family piece, OK. But re-plating is expensive. If the silver set is ever resold, you are not likely to recoup your money.”
If a silver piece no longer works properly (i.e., has a broken hinge), fix it because you're not going to find a replacement at a tag sale.
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