Restoration  and Polishing of Sterling Silver Picture Frames

Sterling silver picture frame polished and restored

These sterling silver chased, repoussé and pierced picture frames have been beautifully restored. The silver was polished and it has completely new blue velvet fabric covering the original carved wood foundation. In the following pages you will see just a few steps in the approximately 12 hours it took to restore each frame.

This is what would qualify as a restoration. I reused the original carved wood forms and original hinges. No compressed cardboard or time saving alternatives were used to restore these frames. These frames were over 100 years old and passed down through generations. A quality restoration will be enjoyed for years into the future.

Comparison Before and After Restoration

sterling silver frames before restoration
Sterling silver frames with new fabric after restoration

Left photo shows condition of sterling silver frame before restoration.             Right photo after new fabric and polishing of sterling silver frame. 

Original condition

Sterling frames tarnished. The fabric was so dirty and discolored you could not even tell that it was blue velvet.
Back of sterling silver frame with worn 100 year old fabric.

Sterling silver frames tarnished with 100 year old  fabric

These two matching sterling silver frames arrived dull and tarnished (left photo.)  The fabric beneath the silver was so dirty and discolored you could not even tell that it was blue velvet.  Looking at the right photo,  the blue velvet fabric on the back was so worn that it was thread bare down to cloth with no velvet plush remaining.

Taking apart the picture frame

Sterling silver frame is carefully removed from the fabric.
After removing the silver your can see the original plush blue velvet.

Removing the original sterling silver frame

The first step is to remove the sterling silver chased, repoussé and pierced frame. It is held in place by tiny silver nails. After the silver is removed you can see how dirty and faded the original fabric had become where it was exposed. Underneath the silver,  it was still plush blue velvet (right photo.)

A slide by side comparison of the sterling silver frame next to the fabric wood frame.

Side by side comparison of silver picture frame and original fabric

This photo shows a slide by side comparison of the sterling silver picture frame next to the original fabric covered wood frame. 

fabric being removed from back panel
wooden center of back panel clean

removing the fabric from the back panel

In these two photo above, you can see the fabric being removed from the center back panel. The left photo shows the beginning of removing  the fabric. As soon as I touched the 100 year old fabric it would practically disintegrate peeling off it bits and pieces.  

original worn fabric of picture frame
separating the picture frame wood layers

The picture frame was two panels

The front of the picture frame was two panels of wood. A carved wood front panel covered in fabric, and a back panel. The two layers were covered in fabric separately,  hence the seam you can see on the side (left photo.)  The goal is to slip a small knife between the front and back layers and carefully pry apart the front from the back. (right photo top.)

Below you can see the front wood and back wood of the frame with the original fabric still attached. 

front wood and back wood of frame

fabric wrapped around front panel
fabric wrapped around back panel

original velvet wrapped around the front and back panels was glued on

The velvet was wrapped around the front wood and back wood panels. By separately wrapping the front and back panels with fabric the cutting and trimming could be sandwiched in between and completely concealed.  

removing fabric from wooden frame
fabric removed from wood

Removing fabric from wooden back panel of the frame

Removing the fabric from the wood was a messy process. Originally the fabric was folded over the wooden edge and glued down. The fabric was very brittle and broke into bits of crispy blue fragments. (It did not peel off in one piece.) This is why you see bits of fabric in the left photo.  Final step, I had to scrap off the old glue and fabric from the wood. The hinge was cleaned with a small brass brush. 

removing original velvet fabric from the wood
original velvet next to wood front panel


The fabric had to be carefully removed from the carved wooden form. As you can see in the photo, the original 100 year old fabric was so fragile and brittle it would fall apart.  I think the green color of the wood is either the dye from the fabric (bleeding into the wood,) or the color of the original glue. Before applying the new fabric I had to scrap off all the old glue.

broken wood under the fabric
repair of wooden knot in back panel

Wood repair of the frame was also needed

One of the wooden frames was in bad shape. The wood panel in the front was broken in several places. This became immediately apparent when I was removing the fabric (left photo.)  In addition, the back panel had a small knot hole that needed to be filled with wood, and glued into place (right photo.)

Applying new Fabric to the wood form

covering the picture frame easel with fabric
outline easel stand on fabric

Covering the easel stand of the picture frame with fabric

Covering the easel stand with new fabric was in several steps.  After removing the old fabric and scrapping off the old glue,  new fabric was wrapped around the carved wood. Cutting the fabric close to the wood with little scissors allowed the new blue velvet fabric to stretch around the curved wooded form (left photo.) The hardest part was to create a perfect silhouette of fabric that would cover the flat back of the easel. 

Original hinge for the picture frame panel was discolored and dirty.
Cleaning original hinge from picture frame

Original hinge for the easel

I was committed to reusing all the original parts from the frame. After taking off the fabric, I also removed the hinge so that I could reassemble the frame in better condition. The original hinge was bent, discolored and scummy with old glue and dirt. A small one inch brass brush cleaned up the hinge so it looked much better. 


Covering the wooden forms with new blue velvet

Covering the wooden forms with new fabric required a lot of my sewing skills. There were five parts. In this photo (above) everything is coming together ready for final assembly. The easel stand (far left,) the front (two pieces - center) the back frame, and the hinged back panel (right.)  

Sterling silver nails hold on the sterling silver frame
sterling loop on back for wall hanging of picture frame

Sterling silver details

Look between my thumb and index finger in the left photo. This is the head of a tiny, tiny sterling silver nail used to hold on the sterling silver frame in place. I polished the head of each nail (hence the dirty fingers.) These sterling silver nails are not replaceable. They are not available for purchase.  If you want new nails, they have to be hand made new nails.

I also made a new sterling loop for the back  in case the client wants to hang this sterling picture frame on the wall. It was screwed in with tiny stainless steel screws which are more secure than nails. This replaced the rusty steel wire that was originally on the back.


Sterling picture frame with front and back view
sterling loop for wall hanging fabric loop for support easel


The left photo shows the front and back of the sterling silver frame. The sterling is polished and nailed into place. The wooden support has completely new fabric. The right photo includes a small sterling loop for wall hanging at the top, and the fabric loop to prevent the easel from sliding open.  Originally this sterling frame did not have a loop or fabric ribbon to stop the easel from sliding open. Sitting on a tablecloth or doily this easel loop would be necessary, but most modern homes do not usually have lace tablecloths or doilies on the table.  


Sterling silver picture frame polished and fabric replaced

The primary work for restoring this antique sterling silver picture frame was replacing the blue velvet fabric, but it wasn’t easy for many reasons. Click on the photo or here to see the step by step process. Never throw away the original easel, or wood fabric backing.

prices for restoration of sterling silver picture frames

Polishing the sterling silver picture frame is relatively easy though time consumer as the sterling silver frame is very fragile. This may only cost less than $200. 

Complete restoration of an antique sterling silver picture frame with polishing and new fabric takes 10-24 hours and more than two weeks. Depending on the design and condition of your frame, the restoration may be $875 - $1400 dollars.  There are many factors that are unpredictable: condition of sterling, condition of the wood forms, design of the wood forms, and more. There are no replacement parts available for antique frames. Everything is hand work. I will reuse as many of the original parts as possible. Fabrication of missing parts is possible but will increase the cost of the restoration. Please do not replace the easel with new parts from a frame shop. What is sold as an easel is foam core cardboard and plastic junk.