My late MIL was a card carrying shopaholic. She LOVED going to the local flea market, where she found a lady who sold sterling and plate. MIL would buy bits every month, and once she assembled enough, she handed a large set over to me, and another one over to another DIL. I have a serving spoon from 1806! It's very simple, but beautiful. I didn't use it this year because everything fancy is still packed away, but that will change, and I will use them again.
You can put sterling in the dishwasher - I've done it dozens of times for the flatware, BUT, you have to make sure it's not touching anything but other silver. This means the knife blades cannot touch the rest of the sterling, because the blades are always stainless, as sterling isn't hard enough to use on the blade. I made myself a lot of storage bags out of the tarnish cloth and as long as I put them away clean, they come back out of the bag equally clean a year later.
Back OT - never again am I going to be the only person cleaning up the mess.... There will be discussion, and changes made for Christmas.