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How To Choose a Flatware Set

By Marilisa Sachteleben

 

I have used, purchased, broken, cherished, tried and discarded many different styles and types of flatware in my lifetime. And I have learned a secret: 'Not all flatware is created equal.' Even comparably priced flatware varies in several important ways. And nowhere is it so evident as it is in flatware options, that you get what you pay for. Here are some considerations for anyone planning to begin a bridal registry, set up housekeeping, purchase new flatware or replace flatware.

  1. Explore flatware craftsmanship. The metal used in flatware is developed into utensils by two different processes.
    • Drop-forged or forged: In this process the piece is made individually by a molding process. Forged or drop-forged flatware is heavier, denser and has smooth rounded edges. Forged is a higher process and generates a safer utensil that resists chips, breaking and contamination. Forged flatware is stainless as well. The forged piece is treated and sealed to stay smooth and untarnished. Look for flatware labeled as 'forged'. Feel the pieces; you will notice the smoother metal.
    • Die-cut or stamped: In this process, flatware pieces are cut or punched from a sheet of lower quality pot-metal and then formed. The process leaves rougher edges that can be sharp. The metal is less pure and will discolor. It is usually not sealed or heat-treated to resist damage from heat, chemicals and daily use. The metal is also pitted and can retain contaminants. Die-cut costs less but is not worth the savings.
  2. Compare alloys and metals used in the flatware. When I was young, people had everyday flatware, made of stainless steel or pot-metal, and good silver, made from nickel, sterling silver, pewter or even gold-plating. We've looked at why pot-metal is not a wise choice for an eating utensil. Let's look at the other choices.
    • Stainless: The least expensive of the better flatware choices, stainless is a good choice for daily use because it doesn't require polishing. Stainless resists stains and of course germs as well. It is dishwasher safe.
    • Nickel-plate: This is an attractive, dull silver color. It does require polishing and studies are showing that constant exposure to nickel can be dangerous. Nickel silverware also retains its value. Nickel should not be used for everyday use.
    • Sterling silver: This is the coup de grace in elegant silver, with its soft, delicate shine. Sterling does stain and it must be polished meticulously after use. Silver polish is very toxic, so if you own and use sterling, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser to polish. You can also remove stains with hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or lemon juice and polish with baking soda.
    • Pewter: Pewter is a lead-based metal and therefore very toxic. Pewter should be used as a collectible only and should never actually come in contact with food. Avoid handling pewter too much also.