How did you get into the business of antique French linens and silver? My mom is from Strasbourg, France, so we’ve always rented a house in the area in the summer. While my mom shopped at the market, I’d talk to the vendors about their recipes. After a while, they’d want to bring me to their châteaus and show me their linens and silverware. People think royalty when they hear the word château, but these are just families who have inherited items that happen to have been in their families for 800 years. They would tell me they didn’t want a set of silver anymore, or their kids didn’t want it, so I started buying things. In 1998, three years after I started collecting, I had finally amassed enough to start a business—though I just went online last year.
What kinds of antiques do you look out for? All of the flatware I buy is oversize and heavier than anything you can find in America. Plate designs have grown so much in size over the past 12 to 15 years, and I think larger flatware looks better next to such big china. Also, I’ll always buy up any silver in a filet pattern. It’s a classic, and there’s lots of it available out there, so if you get a 12- or 18-piece setting, you can always add to your collection later.
What are some of the most unusual silver pieces you’ve found? Recently, I’ve bought several silver manches à gigot—;basically, a holder you put around a leg of lamb so you don’t get your hands dirty when carving it. I’ve found a few butter presses—you push the butter up from the bottom and it makes a shape. To keep the butter cold enough to hold the shape, the bottom of the press unscrews so you can put ice cubes underneath. I also have these great spoons with holes in them called poudreuses. You use them when you shake powdered sugar over a tart so it comes out like the design in the spoon.