No matter what aspect of household management you may be thinking about or have a question on, Mr Town Talk has a wealth of experience at your disposal.

He can, for example, advise on place settings for a celebratory dinner party; on how best to polish expensive shoes or luxury leather goods; or how to enhance and preserve the appearance of your most treasured precious stones.

Simply click on any of the topics below and Mr Town Talk will be there to advise you.

If you have any questions which are not answered here, or any topics you’d like to see added, please e-mail our polished gentleman at and he’ll respond as soon as he can, if not immediately.








Over the years, I’ve learned a great deal about the care of silver and silverware. While there may be some little secrets I might like to keep to myself, the following points are among the most important to remember.

  • Always wash fine silver with mild soap and warm water, then buff it up with a dry cotton cloth. Soap is always preferable to detergents, and buffing silver immediately after washing helps eliminate water spotting, which can mar the finish.

  • Some foods contain substances which can affect silver. They include salt, acids such as those in lemons and vinegar, and the sulphur in eggs and mayonnaise. Both silver and stainless steel knife blades should be washed immediately after each use, to prevent being harmed by these substances.

  • Never use rubber bands when you wrap silver for storage, even over a layer of tissue or plastic, because they contain substances that can tarnish the metal.

  • Most silver is dishwasher safe, but do make a note of these particular points: liquid dishwasher detergents are always preferable to any other kinds; always arrange your silver – particularly silver flatware – so that doesn’t come into contact with other metals; remove your silver before the machine starts its drying cycle and dry each item by hand to prevent water spotting.

  • Always change the water in silver vases or bowls holding flowers on a daily basis. It’s also best to remove the flower heads as soon as they begin to wilt, and wash the vase or bowl in warm, soapy water after every use, to remove any traces of sap and other residues left by the flowers.

Take care when using silver dips as they may erase designs in the silver made dark by oxidisation.
As well as all these important pointers, I’ve gathered together a few of my most frequently asked questions, together with my answers.

What do anti-tarnish protectors do?
Anti-tarnish protectors are one of the most important ingredients in all our silver care products.
We use them because silver has the ability to combine with other elements in the air, such as sulphur. When this occurs, a new compound forms on the surface of the silver, which we all know as "tarnish". Tarnishing is a natural process for silver, but the industrial pollutants found in today’s atmosphere, and traces of sulphur from gas appliances such as cookers, fires and boilers, can speed up its formation.
An anti-tarnish ingredient is a special molecule that can bond to silver. When it’s included in a silver cleaning product, a very small quantity of anti-tarnish protector bonds to the surface of the silver and forms an invisible shield that protects it from tarnish-forming substances. We use an anti-tarnish protector that’s non-toxic and colourless, which means the silver’s natural beauty is undiminished.
Ultimately, the anti-tarnish ingredient breaks down, but not before it’s significantly lengthened the time during which your silverware remains shining and bright.
What’s more, the specially formulated anti-tarnish ingredient in our silver care products is particularly durable. So you can be sure our products will go on being effective for much longer than other cleaning options.

Which product should I use if my silver is almost black?
Our Spray Silver Polish or Silver Foam works well on most silverware. Our Silver Sparkle Tissues are more suitable for cleaning cutlery or small silver articles and other items that combine silver with other materials.
Very heavily tarnished silver may require more than one cleaning, or may even call for professional attention.

I’ve heard you can use a special metal plate or some aluminium foil in a container of warm water to clean silver. What’s the difference between these methods and using Town Talk products?
The methods mentioned remove tarnish by creating a simple chemical reaction that’s the reverse of the one used to apply silver plate to brass and copper. This technique is perfectly safe when the metal plates are used as directed – and the tarnish disappears in front of your eyes – but this is only one part of the work done by Town Talk products.
Our polishes not only remove tarnish, they also polish the silver, which adds to its soft, lustrous appearance. What’s more, our products all contain an anti-tarnish protector, which effectively reduces the amount of time needed to care for silver.

How abrasive are the Town Talk Silver Care products?
Everyone who produces silver cleaning products uses abrasive-based formulations.
Abrasives are sophisticated industrial products that come in many different sizes, shapes and degrees of hardness. The skill of the manufacturer lies in selecting abrasives whose properties most closely meet the needs of the metal being cleaned. For example, silver and gold don’t require the same hard abrasives needed for stainless steel or the slightly finer abrasive used on brass.
Our products are sufficiently abrasive to cut through tarnish and grime and then polish silver to a glowing brilliance. In fact, they are so fine they work almost invisibly.

Will I remove all the silver if I use polishes too often?
All silverware companies of any note use advanced silver plating technologies that ensure a finish that’s both beautiful and highly durable. The chance of removing all the silver from one of these companies' goods is so unlikely that virtually all fine plated silverware sold today is unconditionally guaranteed.
On the other hand, silver plate manufactured 30 or more years ago may be less durable, but is likely to be more heavily plated. Our polishes are gentler and more effective than the cleaners generally being sold at that time.
Only very lightly plated, cheaply manufactured silverware has the potential for being affected by the use of quality care products. One of the most important abrasives used in our silver care products is also one of the most common abrasives used in toothpaste!



Over the years I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my silver care products. Some have been quite technical; others have been more straightforward.
Here’s a selection of the most frequently asked, which I’ve organised on a product-by-product basis.

Silver Rinse
My Silver Rinse is a special acidic cleaning solution for use on silver cutlery. It’s easy to use and produces excellent results.
Nevertheless, I still get asked a few questions!

Should I wear rubber gloves when I use your Silver Rinse?
The simple answer is “Yes”. I usually do, and I recommend you do, too.

Can I use Silver Rinse on other metals?
No. Silver Rinse is intended for cleaning silver and silver plate only and can damage stainless steel knife blades, other metals, artificially ‘oxidised’ silver, emeralds, coral, pearls, opals or paste stones.

Do I need to take any special precautions with I’m using it?
Not “special”, but I do recommend you always protect stainless steel and other work surfaces from coming into contact with my Rinse as it can damage them.

How long will your Rinse last for?
As with my other liquid jewellery cleaners, my Silver Rinse will go on working until it becomes dark in colour and quite cloudy. I recommend you replace it as soon as you can see particles of dirt at the bottom of the jar.

Should I rinse my cutlery in water after cleaning it?
Put simply, yes, to remove all traces of the acid in the Silver Rinse.

Will Silver Rinse give my silver any anti-tarnish protection?
I’m afraid not, which is why I recommend polishing your silver with one of my Town Talk Silver Polishing Cloths. For longer-lasting protection, use one of my Silver Polish Tissue Sachets, my Silver Polish Spray or my Silver Foam.

Silver Polish
This creamy liquid silver polish incorporates an advanced anti-tarnish protector that keeps silver shining bright for months at a time. It’s ideal for cleaning large sets of silver cutlery or collections of tableware and a little goes a long way, making it a very efficient and economic way of cleaning your silver.

How does it work?
The creamy liquid is a special mix of ingredients including metal cleaners (including jewellers rouge) and anti-tarnish protector.
Applying the polish with a soft cloth puts the and metal cleaners to work on the surface of the silver, and they remove the tarnish and grime.
The anti-tarnish protector bonds to the freshly cleaned silver surface and keeps it tarnish-free for several weeks, even months at a time.

Which should I use: Silver Polish or Silver Foam?
I find both work equally well, so it’s really a matter of personal preference.

Silver Foam
This traditional silver polish comes complete with a sponge applicator. I find it’s particularly good for cleaning silver cutlery as well as ornate and decorative silver and more heavily tarnished silverware. 

How does it work?
The foam polish is made from a special mix of ingredients, including metal cleaners and even jeweller's rouge, and an anti-tarnish protector. Applying the polish with a soft sponge allows the metal cleaners to act on the surface of the silver and remove tarnish and grime.
The anti-tarnish protector bonds to the freshly cleaned silver and keeps it tarnish free for a very long time.

Which should I use: Town Talk Silver Polish or Silver Foam?
Again, it’s really a matter of preference. Having said that, some people find ornately decorated silver is easier to clean with the foam, because it can get into the decoration and be worked with less splattering than the polish.

What should I do if my Silver Foam has dried out?
Adding a few teaspoons of water should restore its cleaning ability.

Anti-tarnish Silver Polish Spray
My Silver Polish Spray offers an easy and effective method of cleaning large sets of silver cutlery or collections of tableware. The polish can be sprayed directly onto the silver, left to dry for a few seconds and then, for best results, buffed with one of my Town Talk Silver Polishing Cloth.

How does it work?
The liquid is a special mix of metal cleaners, and an anti-tarnish protector.
Spraying the liquid then polishing the silver surface with a soft cloth allows the solvents and metal cleaners to act on the surface and remove tarnish and grime.
Before the final polish, the silver should be left to dry for a minute or two, to give the anti-tarnish protector an opportunity to bond to the silver and keep it tarnish-free for a long time.

What happens if the pump spray clogs or becomes difficult to operate?
I find the best thing to do is soak it for a few minutes in warm water, to dissolve any dried liquid, then try the pump several times to ensure that it’s working, then replace it on the bottle.

Silver Polish Tissues
Our Silver Polish Tissues are moistened with a highly effective silver cleaning solution and an advanced anti-tarnish protector that offers a neat, quick way of restoring tarnished silver. The tissues have a fresh, clean scent that gives off a more agreeable smell than most products during cleaning. You’ll find they’re especially convenient for caring for silver jewellery while you’re away from home.

How do the tissues work?
The liquid in the tissues is a special mix of metal cleaners, and an anti-tarnish protector. The solvents and metal cleaners work together to remove surface tarnish and grime; the anti-tarnish ingredient remains behind to give long-lasting protection against further tarnishing.
We use a special non-woven tissue that’s superior to cloth in providing a "backing" for the liquid ingredients, which makes cleaning faster and more thorough.

How long will each tissue last?
One tissue can easily clean a small collection of silver jewellery, a comb, brush and mirror set, several picture frames or desk accessories, or one full size wine cooler. Quite a lot, really!

What else can I clean with them?
As I say, they’re very good for cleaning desk accessories and other small objects for which polishes, foams and sprays are inconvenient and messy. I also use them on items with decorative silver mounts, which combine silver and other materials and which need either the neatest possible cleaning or cannot be washed.

Silver Polishing Cloths and Mitts
Our original Silver Polishing Cloths and Mitts are made from 100% specially selected cotton fibres impregnated with efficient cleaners and anti-tarnish agents which combine to give brilliant results and long lasting anti-tarnish protection against the elements – as they have done for over a century.
The Mitts are lined to help keep your hands clean. They can be used on their own, or after you’ve cleaned you silver with a liquid polish to develop the final, shining glow. The Cloths are particularly useful on lightly tarnished silverware, especially when liquid cleaners are inconvenient and messy.

How do the Cloths and Mitts work?
Both the Cloths and the Mitts contain a special mix of silver cleaning ingredients and an anti-tarnish protector. The simple act of buffing the silver applies the cleaners and allows them to remove dust, fingerprints and tarnish while – at the same time – leaving a smooth, glowing and tarnish-protected surface. Regular buffing helps build a unique silver “patina”.

How long with they last for?
Both will eventually turn black as the special cleaners remove dust and tarnish, but this will take a long time and both the Cloths and the Mitts can be used until they are completely black. Both products can be safely disposed of in the dustbin, once they’ve reached the end of their useful lives.

Which should I use: the Cloth or the Mitts?
Once again, both products work equally well, so it's really economics and personal preference. The Cloths are not expensive and the Mitts are very convenient.

Can these products be washed?
I don’t recommend it. By the time they become black, the cleaners will be mostly used up and will, in any case, be washed out with the accumulated dirt. It’s better to throw out the old ones and replace them with a fresh, new Cloth or Mitt.

Will the Town Talk logo scratch my silver?
No. We use a special non-abrasive ink to create it!


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All good jewellery needs care and attention. My range of products will ensure you get all the help you need to keep your precious stones and their settings looking beautiful at all times.
Once again, I’ve collected together my most frequently asked questions and my answers.

Jewel Sparkle
Silver Sparkle
Pearl Care Kit
Gold Polishing Cloths and Mitts

Jewel Sparkle
This is the most complete jewellery cleaner available. It is designed to clean gold, platinum and diamond jewellery and precious stones by dissolving the residues of everyday life such as soaps and detergents, food particles, body oils and perspiration that adhere to their surfaces.

How long should the jewellery be left in the liquid?
One or two minutes should be sufficient. After that, a little work with the brush should remove any embedded dirt, particularly in the settings of rings and brooches.

How long will the liquid remain effective as a cleaner?
The liquid will continue to work until it’s quite cloudy. It should be replaced when you begin to see a residue from the cleaned jewellery in the liquid, which may turn dark, blackish blue.

Is it necessary to rinse jewellery after cleaning?
No, it’s not necessary to rinse after use.

Are there any stones I should not immerse in your Jewel Sparkle?
Yes. You should not use Jewel Sparkle on emeralds, coral, amber, opal or any stones that have water-soluble fixings.

Is your Jewel Sparkle suitable for use on pearls?
No. The liquid is too harsh for delicate pearl jewellery. There’s also the risk of damaging the thread of a pearl necklace by dipping it in any liquid.
My Pearl Care Kit is best for the care of pearls and pearl jewellery.

Silver Sparkle
This special jewellery cleaner is designed specifically for cleaning items of silver jewellery such as rings, chains or brooches, leaving them sparkling bright and protected against tarnish.

How long should the jewellery be soaked in the liquid?
I recommend immersing your jewellery in the cleaning fluid for two minutes and, if necessary, repeating the process until the items are clean. Do not leave items immersed for longer than two minutes at a time.

How long will the liquid remain effective as a cleaner?
As with my Jewel Sparkle, the liquid remains effective until it is dark in colour and quite cloudy. When you can see particles of dirt at the bottom of the jar, it’s time to replace the liquid.

Should the jewellery be rinsed after cleaning?
Yes, it’s a good idea to rinse the jewellery under running water and then wipe it dry with a clean cloth.

Are there any stones I should not immerse in your Silver Sparkle?
Yes. You should not use Silver Sparkle on emeralds, coral, amber, opal or any other soft stones or stones that have water soluble fixings. And you should not use it on costume or imitation jewellery or silver plated articles.

Pearl Care Kit
This kit contains twelve pearl tissue sachets and a microfibre pochette for drying and storing your pearls safely. Each tissue is moistened with a mild, chemically balanced solution that removes cosmetic residues, body oils and perspiration from the surface of pearls, leaving them clean and glowing. The fabric is treated with an anti-static ingredient.
Other, much harder stones can easily damage pearls if they’re stored in the same jewellery box; one of my pochettes is the perfect solution to this problem.

Should pearls be cleaned at all?
Pearls are among the most delicate and beautiful of all gems. They are sensitive to acids, chemicals, body oils and perspiration. If they are not cleaned, the surface will become pitted and dull. In fact, the more the pearls are worn, the more often they should be cleaned.

Will a mild solution of soap and water do the trick?
Soap may not remove all the surface impurities and, indeed, may harm the pearls if the soap’s pH is not precisely 6.5, as is the pH in our tissues. Worse still, the soap residue may remain on the pearls leaving them looking dull and lifeless.

How long will the Kit last for?
I recommend a new tissue should be used each time you clean your pearls, so it depends on how often the pearls are cleaned. The sachets should remain moist, so long as they are not opened, and will last for several years before being used.
The pochette can be used indefinitely, and washing it gently in warm water will do it no harm.

Gold Polishing Cloths and Mitts
Made from 100% cotton, woven to my exact specifications to give a very dense cloth capable of holding a heavy impregnation of cleaners and anti-tarnish agent suitable for cleaning gold and heavily tarnished silver, my Gold Polishing Cloths and Mitts are, if I may say so, wonderful.

How do they work?
Both the Cloths and Mitts work by applying the built-in cleaners to the surface of the gold, allowing them to take effect and leaving a smooth finish as the Cloth or Mitt is swept away. The main cleaning ingredient is jewellers rouge – iron oxide, to give it its chemical name – which is recognised as the ideal material for cleaning gold.
The Mitts are lined, which helps to keep your hands clean.

Can I use them on other metals?
Both Cloths and Mitts are ideal for polishing silver – especially sterling silver jewellery – and can also be used on brass, copper and platinum.

Are they suitable for gold plated articles?
Yes, but you must be very careful with gold or silver plated articles. Test the Cloth or Mitt on an inconspicuous area first, to make sure the plating does not come off.
The Cloths and Mitts should be safe to use on good quality silver plate.

How long will they last?
As you use them, the Cloths and Mitts will turn black. This is a chemical reaction rather than a build-up of dirt.
Whether you have a Cloth or a Mitt, you’ll prolong its active life by storing it in the plastic bag provided.

Can I wash my Cloth or Mitt?
No. Doing so will destroy its cleaning property and render it ineffective as a polishing aid.

Which should I use: the Cloth or Mitts?
Both work equally well, so it's really a case of economics and personal preference. The Cloth doesn't cost a great deal; the Mitts are very convenient.

Why have a Gold Polishing Cloth or a Mitt if I already have Jewel Sparkle?
Jewel Sparkle is especially designed for gemstones. It dissolves surface grime on the stones and the metal mounts. But my Gold Polishing Cloths and Mitts provide a more specialised and effective polishing action on the gold.

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As a general rule, precious stones should be treated as delicate items. They’re not as fragile as eggshells, but they’re equally vulnerable.
While some stones are more durable than others, many are prone to discolouration if they come into contact with bleach or other household chemicals. So my advice is, never wear rings while you’re doing housework.
It’s also often the case that damaged settings cause stones to be lost or chipped. So again I advise you to take your jewellery to a jeweller from time to time, to have the settings inspected.
Finally, do store your jewellery carefully. Keep diamonds separate from all other stones and keep pearls protected in a microfibre pochette from the Town Talk Pearl Care Kit.
As well as the basic stone-by-stone information you’ll fine right here, I’ve also prepared what I think is a very useful – and, I hope, entertaining – Guide to Caring for Precious Stones, which includes several of my Top Tips and a number of interesting anecdotes.
You can both read a copy by clicking here.

Extremely durable stones, prone to chipping from hard knocks. Best cleaned in my Jewel Sparkle or in one of my Sonic Cleaning kits.

Very durable, but should be protected from scratches and sharp blows. Clean in Town Talk Jewel Sparkle or use a Sonic Cleaning kit.

Very durable, but should be protected from scratches and sharp blows. Clean in Town Talk Jewel Sparkle or use a Sonic Cleaning kit.

Durable, but should be protected from scratches and sharp blows. Colours may fade if exposed to very bright sunlight. Clean in Town Talk Jewel Sparkle or use a Sonic Cleaning kit.

Blue Topaz
Durable, but should be protected from scratches and sharp blows. Sensitive to sulphuric acid. Clean in Town Talk Jewel Sparkle or use a Sonic Cleaning kit.

Durable, but should be protected from scratches and sharp blows. Clean in Town Talk Jewel Sparkle or use a Sonic Cleaning kit.

Durable, but should be protected from scratches and sharp blows. Clean in Town Talk Jewel Sparkle or use a Sonic Cleaning kit.

Fragile. Protect from sharp blows, chemicals and extremes of temperature. Do not dip into any jewellery cleaner and never use an ultra-sonic cleaner. Wipe with a soft, clean cloth or clean with a Town Talk Pearl Care Kit.

Relatively very soft gems, easily scratched by other jewellery or metals. Protect from exposure to any chemicals, cosmetics or hair spray as these will pit the pearls’ surface and weaken the thread. Put pearls on after all cosmetics have been applied. Have the necklace strung with knots. Do not dip into any jewellery cleaner. Wipe the pearls with a soft cloth after use and before storing. Never use an ultra-sonic cleaner. Restring when thread is dirty or stretching. Ideally, store pearls in a Town Talk Pearl Pochette and clean using a Town Talk Pearl Care Kit.

Fragile. Protect from chemicals, scratches and temperature changes. Wipe with a soft
cloth. Do not dip into any jewellery cleaner. Clean using a Town Talk Pearl Care Kit, which is suitable for all soft stones and costume jewellery.

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Some people may think metals such as brass, copper, stainless steel and chrome don’t need as much care and attention as their more exotic cousins, silver and gold.
Yet all metals are equal in their need for special polishes designed to bring out the best in them and make them shine like new.
I get asked a lot of questions about my Metal Polishes. I hope some of those questions – and my answers – will help you get the best out of my products.

Brass & Copper Polish
This polish has been specially formulated for cleaning stubborn marks and all kinds of blemishes from brass and copper. Like my Silver Care products, it contains a unique anti-tarnish protector.

How does it work?
The cream-coloured liquid includes metal cleaners, and an anti-tarnish protector. The mechanical act of applying the liquid with a soft cloth allows the cleaners to break down and remove the surface tarnish and grime, then polish the brass or copper to a smooth, glowing finish.
The anti-tarnish protector bonds to the freshly cleaned surface and keeps it tarnish-free for a very long time.

Why did my brass change colour when I used your Brass & Copper Polish?
What happens is that the original, just-from-the-factory appearance is restored once all the accumulated tarnish and grime has been removed.
It’s important to remember that brass and copper go darker as they tarnish, so they look more "golden" over time. Newly cleaned brass and copper will invariably have a lighter colour after cleaning. Brass will have a smooth, richer, and subtler colouration when it’s properly cleaned.

Can I use this product on lacquered brass?
No. It has been formulated for use on solid brass only.

Stainless Steel Polish
Ideal for the maintenance of all stainless steel objects and surfaces, my polish has been specially formulated for use on what is the hardest metal used in fine flatware, tableware, pots, pans, sinks and work surfaces. It’s also suitable for use on chrome-plated items as it’s chromium that gives stainless steel its hardness and stain resistance.

How does it work?
The white, slightly gritty liquid includes solvents and special metal cleaners. Applying the liquid with a soft cloth allows the solvents and metal cleaners to break down and remove hard water marks and other minerals.
As stainless steel is so hard, you may need to apply a little more "elbow grease" to achieve the best results.

Why does stainless steel have to be cleaned at all?
The name "stainless" does not mean "stain free". If you clean any well-used stainless steel knife blade, your cloth may well come away completely black while the blade will appear shinier and be perceptibly smoother.
We use a conditioner that restores the original finish of fine cutlery and tableware, pots, pans and sinks by removing the materials that can build up on the surface and potentially damage it by causing pitting and discolouration.

What about satin-finished stainless flatware and flatware with gold accents on the handles?
You shouldn't use this stainless conditioner on any item’s gold-plated highlights, and you should take care when you’re cleaning satin finishes; too much “elbow grease” may cause some to take on a more polished look.

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The splendour of an evening’s truly fine dining is a wonder to behold.
The glittering tableware and sparkling glasses, floral centrepieces and fine, starched linen, black ties and evening gowns – to say nothing of the formalities that have, like so much on such nights, evolved over centuries – combine to make grand occasions memorable.
While public evenings of this kind are almost impossible to recreate at home, it’s always a delight to hold a dinner party for friends or family, and to take the time to prepare a well-set table, which your guests will definitely appreciate.
But where to start, and how to apply the finishing touch?
I believe I may have the answers!

When should I start getting ready?
I’m afraid I can’t advise on food preparation, but experience tells me it’s never too soon to start work on your table. Indeed, the night before is a very good time.
You should begin by choosing a suitable tablecloth and napkins. Fine white damask is my favourite. It not only provides what I often think of as a beautiful canvas on which the place settings, glasses, centrepieces – and even the meal itself – become a wonderful picture, it also helps to lower the noise level in the room, so no-one has to raise their voice.
One can, of course, achieve the same effect with a coloured tablecloth, but I always recommend one that has no pattern. Most are too busy!

How should I set out the cutlery?
The simple rule for setting out cutlery is to work from the outside in, following each course as you go.
The soupspoons will be the first to be used, so they go furthest to the right from the centre of the place setting. Next comes the fish knife, with the fish fork to the left of the setting, followed by the knife and fork for the main course – again, set right and left – with each knife’s blade facing inwards, towards the plate.
If you’re serving a sweet course that needs a dessert knife, it should be placed above the setting, with the blade pointing to the left. The dessertspoon, also pointing left, goes beneath it, while the dessert fork goes under the spoon, pointing to the right.
Even if you’re not serving soup, the rules are the same: start from the outside and work in.
Bread and butter plates, with small butter spreader placed on them, go to the left of the setting.
One should also set out all the serving pieces likely to be needed during the meal – serving spoons and forks, ladles, pastry servers and the like – remembering that each dish should have its own utensil. In my experience, having just the right serving piece or utensil for each dish will give your table the perfect finish.

Where do the glasses go?
Again the rule is simple. The glasses should be placed in order of their use – white first, followed by red, if you’re serving a meat main course – just above and to the right of the knives.
Don’t forget to include a water glass for each guest. Everyone – especially drivers – will need some refreshment!
Giving each glass a final buff with one of my Tea Towels will, of course, add a final touch of sparkle.

What about centrepieces and candles?
My advice is to keep things simple whilst introducing a little drama. Small, brightly coloured centrepieces will create a fine effect, yet still allow your guests to see each other across the table. Big ones may simply get in the way, and that would never do!
Candles, too, should be discreet. If they are too big they may dominate the scene. If they are too small, your guests may not be able to see what they’re eating!
Another thing I’ve learned is that candles should always be lit before your guests arrive, and not extinguished until they have left. One doesn’t want to spoil the end of an evening by filling the room with freshly extinguished candle smoke, even if the candles are scented!

Should I have a seating plan?
If you’re expecting more than half-a-dozen guests – and especially if you’ve invited a group who don’t all know each other – a seating plan and place cards will give you the chance to seat people exactly as you please.
But do be careful! It’s never a mistake to split up couples – they will see each other again very soon – but it’s most unwise to seat the prettiest young woman between two men who are known to be having what I believe are called “relationship problems”.
Remember, too, that the most animated conversations often take place across dinner tables, not between people sitting next to each other. This could help you decide on your seating plan.

What are the rules for serving the food?
Convention decrees that plates should always be placed in front of your guests from the right and taken away, when they’re empty, from the left.
Wine and water should always be served from the right, and food in dishes offered from the right, for guests to help themselves.
It is perfectly correct, once the main course is finished, to remove the salt and pepper from the table, just as it is equally acceptable for cheese and biscuits to be left on the table while coffee is served.
Following these rules will not only bring grace and style to your party, but also impress the most discerning of your guests!

Are there any rules for guests?
When I was young, it was the done thing for everyone’s guests to follow a set of etiquette rules.
Nowadays, of course, society is more relaxed. But that doesn’t mean the old rules have had their day. Far from it! Indeed, I’ve many times seen a little decorum add a frisson of excitement to the most informal of occasions.
For example, when you first arrive as a guest, make a point of finding your hostess and saying hello before you accept the offer of a drink. She will certainly appreciate a gesture like that.
If hors d’oeuvres are offered, just take one. It’s frightfully undignified to scoop up three or four at a time! They may, too, spoil your appetite!
If you take a break from eating but have not finished the course, always place your knife and fork across each other as a signal that you are, as it were, resting. When you have finished, place your knife and fork in the middle of your plate, parallel to each other. Your hostess will recognise this signal!
Even though the dinner party is being held in a private house, where the rules for public places do not apply, it’s really not the done thing – and most unseemly – to smoke at table, or to apply lipstick between courses.
Finally, choose your moment of departure carefully. To leave too soon might suggest you have not enjoyed yourself. To linger too long might cause you to outstay your welcome.
Just as the setting for a dinner party establishes its style and progress, its completion is a matter of elegant timing!

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"Sounds odd, but cleaning my silver is a ritual I don

"Sounds odd, but cleaning my silver is a ritual I don't need to repeat very often."

Miss C, Ruthin, Wales
Mr Town Talk’s Gleaming Polished World was established in Lancashire in 1895, to supply the finest Polishes, Cleaners and Accessories for Silver, Gold and Precious Metal Jewellery, Cutlery and Cutlery Storage. More recently, Mr Town Talk’s range of unparalleled products has been expanded to include Household Cleaners and Laundry Requisites.