Thursday, 14 June 2007 | Tags: , , , , , ,

Whether you're looking for everyday flatware or something more elegant, you can choose from a variety of cutlery styles and materials. Whatever you buy, keep in mind you will be using it for years to come, so choose wisely and think quality. We find out more about buying cutlery.

The Basics

  • Flatware is available in many styles, from ornate to minimalist.

  • Most cutlery is made from either sterling silver, silver-plated metal or some grade of stainless steel.

    • Sterling silver flatware is solid through and through. Scratches can be buffed out. Soft by nature, it scratches easily. It’s often alloyed with copper to make it stronger. Sterling silver is stamped with “925”. It will last longer than you, and can often be part of an inheritance. If you do have sterling, our experts say you should use it regularly and not just for special occasions. Because the more you use it, the less you’ll have to polish it! Most experts recommend hand washing and drying immediately. However, some say putting it in the dishwasher is fine as long as you remove it promptly and dry off any remaining water droplets. Silver requires polishing once a year to prevent it from oxidizing and tarnishing.

    • Silver-plated cutlery has a thin coating of silver, which also makes it last a long time, but it doesn’t quite last as long as Sterling silver. Silver-plated flatware is dishwasher-safe and shouldn’t dull.

    • Stainless steel stains less than other metals, but is not stain proof. It is the most common material for everyday flatware. It is usually a mix of steel, chromium, and nickel, and shouldn’t tarnis, rust, chip or wear out. It can be susceptible to scratching. Look for the percentage of chromium, which is a measure of rust resistance, and percentage of nickel, which is a measure of shine and strength. The best quality measurement will be 18-10 (chromium-steel). It’s dishwasher-safe, but don’t ever wash it with your Sterling silver because the metals compete and can corrode your silver.

  • Style and design: Consider the individual pieces themselves. Pick each one up and get a good feel for it in your hand. Does it feel balanced? Is it easy to hold?

    • Forks: make sure the tines end in a fine taper and are finished nicely (not too sharp).

    • Spoons: make sure it has a deep bowl with smooth edges.

    • Knife: look for a knife that has a uniform wideness for most of the spreader end. (If it tapers too much, you’ll find scooping and spreading peanut butter to be less efficient.)

  • Setting: look for a basic five-piece setting which consists of a dinner knife, a dinner fork, a salad for, a tablespoon, and a teaspoon. As for number of settings, ten is a good number to aim for. Boxed sets may be tricky so you may end up with two sets of four settings, or two sets of six. If you go with single pieces, you may find it easier to add to later on since boxed sets tend to be discontinued.

Other Considerations

  • If you’re creating a wedding registry, don’t forget to include the serving pieces that go with your set.

  • Depending on what you’re choosing for the rest of your tableware (everyday dishes, fine china etc.) you should consider how your flatware will look with everything else you select. You want to complement everything on your table, especially for more formal entertaining.


We tried out four different types of flatware throughout various meals for a few weeks to see what the differences were. We looked at aesthetics, weight and feel, and the shape of the implements. We tested:

  • Birks’ Louis 15th (Sterling silver): $683 (5-piece place setting)
  • Oneida Cornet (Silver-plated): $45 (5-piece place setting)
  • Sambonet (18-10 stainless steel): $80 (5-piece place setting)
  • Hampton’s (18-0 stainless steel): $5 (5-piece place setting)

Usage Test

  • The Sambonet felt comfortable use and had a good weight and balance.

  • The Hampton’s was too light and thin, and easily bent. (No dipping into hard ice cream!)

  • The Birks’ set was very elegant and well-made, but we couldn’t justify the price. If someone gave it to us as a gift or through an inheritance though, we’d cherish it forever!


We both liked the Sambonet flatware set the best for its comfort and balance.


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