Holidays, parties, family dinners, all these events center around the dining table. And an essential part of the place settings is the flatware: the forks, spoons, knives, and other accoutrements. Beautiful flatware can add to the elegance of the dinner, accompanied by chic dinnerware, barware, and serveware. Flatware makes a fine gift for a wedding or housewarming party and can also be passed down as an heirloom.
In the late 18th century, the term "silverware" was used because the utensils were typically made of or plated with silver. It wasn't until the 19th century that "flatware" became the term of use, referencing the way the utensils lay flat on the table. Both words are used today to describe dining utensil sets, no matter what material it's made from. This buying guide outlines all you need to know before you purchase a flatware set of your own.
Silver Flatware: Sterling silver is a customary material to use for fine flatware. Sterling is silver alloyed with another metal, usually copper, in order to increase its durability and hardness. The standard purity for sterling is 92.5% silver, which is why you will see the "925" hallmark stamped into the metal. Sterling silver flatware is perfect for special occasions and light use.
Stainless Steel Flatware: Stainless steel is steel alloyed with at least 10.5% chromium, making it resistant to corrosion, rusting, and staining. Nickel may also be present in stainless steel to further prevent rusting and increase the luster. The amount of chromium and nickel in stainless steel is sometimes indicated by a ratio. For example, 18/10 would mean that there is 18% chromium and 10% nickel. 18/0 would be 18% chromium, 0% nickel. Stainless steel flatware is ideal for everyday use.
Silver-Plated Flatware: Some flatware may be plated with a precious metal, most commonly silver. Silver plate flatware starts with either stainless steel or another base metal and is then coated with silver. This provides the look and feel of sterling silver flatware at a fraction of the cost. Gold plate may also be used to create decorative detail.
A flatware set is typically defined by how many people it can service (the number of place settings). The standard single place setting consists of five pieces: two forks, two spoons, and a knife. Service for 12 or 24 are the most popular options. The number of pieces in the set varies. For example, a service for 12 would include twelve place settings but could also come with extra serving utensils such as a ladle or a serving fork.
Other flatware sets you may find are hostess sets and cutlery sets. A hostess set is a collection of serving utensils. This can include plain and pierced tablespoons, cold meat forks, lasagna and pie servers, gravy ladles, butter knives, berry spoons, or sugar shells. A cutlery set is a collection of knives, typically steak knives used for individual place settings.
Flatware can be simple and sophisticated or ornate and decorative. Whether you like traditional or modern, we have a silverware pattern to suit your taste. For an antique feel, dry something floral or beaded. And hammered flatware creates an artisanal look. We also have sea life and scalloped designs to match your nautical sense of style.
It is crucial to clean utensils after use. The cleaning method depends on the material. Stainless steel flatware is usually dishwasher safe, making it the best choice for everyday use. Some silver-plated flatware can be cleaned in a dishwasher on a gentle cycle, but it is always best to hand wash in order to preserve the finish. Sterling silver flatware should always be cleaned by hand and shined with a silver polish and a soft cloth.
When your flatware is not in use, store it safely in a silverware chest. A flatware chest is usually cloth-lined with an outer case of wood, vinyl, leather, or faux leather. Silverware storage is a crucial part to keep your utensils looking shiny and new. And our chests are so decorative, you'll want to leave them out in the open as part of your home decor!