I think that for most sterling silver tableware it's okay to polish, but you must be careful to do it the right way. If you polish with a too abrassive substance or cloth then yes, you'll end up ruining the piece and the value of the item. Here are some good tips for polishing silver. These are just suggestions and you must use at your own risk. It's impossible to say that any particular way to polish a silver item would be gentle without actually seeing the item, polish, and cloth. One thing I would definitely not recommend is to use a power-based polishing technique, such as on a power polisher. Also, NEVER polish antique or collectible coins as that will certainly diminish if not ruin the value - leave it to the experts.
Here's how I like to clean my sterling pieces (note: this method is a suggestion and may not necessarily be the best method for your silver):
Step OneHandling helps keep silver free of tarnish, so use your pieces regularly.
Step TwoAvoid exposing silver for long periods of time to foods such as eggs, mustard and mayonnaise, which are high in sulfur and can corrode silver.Step ThreeAvoid leaving silver on rubber mats to dry, as rubber also contains sulfur.Step FourWash and dry silver by hand.Step FiveUse a soft dish towel when drying silver.Step SixApply silver polish according to the instructions.Step SevenRub the polish in thoroughly.Step EightBuff the surface of polished silver with a fresh, dry polishing cloth until the silver has a bright sheen.Step NineThoroughly remove the polish from the silver before use; silver polish tastes terrible.Step TenIf silver is to be stored for a long time, pretreat it with a tarnish-retardant polish before storing. Tips & Warnings
- Frequent polishing of silver-coated or -plated items may wear down their silver finish, leaving the base metal exposed. Rather than polishing such items, use them as often as possible and wash them by hand to prevent tarnishing.