How to choose luxury flatware

Natural wood flatware by Alain Saint-Joanis
Natural wood flatware by Alain Saint-Joanis

How to choose luxury flatware

First things first.

I should say that this article focuses on European flatware but the advice holds good across the board and in these days of the internet, goods are available and purchased worldwide. Quality flatware comes at a premium and is defined by the design (including weight and feel), quality of production and materials, hand finish and genuine attractiveness. I am attracted to those countries and companies with a long tradition and proven record of manufacturing flatware in the country of origin - England, France and Italy.

Much of the current cheaper and not so cheap flatware on the market is made in Asia.

Good quality flatware is available in three types - stainless steel, silver plate, and sterling or solid silver. Good quality stainless steel should be 18/10 (18 % chromium, 10 % nickel and the rest is steel). Chromium makes the steel rust-resistant, whilst the nickel provides acid resistance and provides a richer look to the flatware. Silverplate or EPNS is a base metal alloy of nickel, zinc & copper. A layer of pure silver is deposited on this base metal to give a silver finish. Sterling silver is only regarded as sterling silver if the silver consists of more than 925 parts to the 1000. In the UK each piece is independently stamped with a hallmark by the Assay office.

One thing worth noting is that whatever flatware finish you decide upon, the knife blade will be stainless steel. It is the only material hard enough.

Flatware Fashion

The handle design mainly drives the look and attractiveness of the flatware although some of the more contemporary designs especially from Scandinavia take the whole piece into consideration as a free form item.

Your first thoughts should be on your house and table design and what will match or complement your dinnerware and stemware. Are you looking for a traditional, classic or contemporary setting. The traditional look very much suits those flatware patterns in sterling silver and stainless in full metal some of which go back the seventeenth century (rat tail, bead, filet etc).

The last ten years have seen much more creativity in the handle and bolster designs. These modern but classic handle designs make use of natural woods, lacquer, and resins providing a myriad of colors and finishes such as marble, mother of pearl, horn and bamboo. These designs will complement both fine china and contemporary dinnerware, indeed a well designed natural and warm wood in my opinion matches the ambiance of gold decorated flatware equally and as effectively as the more expensive sterling silver. The advantages of these products are that they can be dishwasher proof including silver plate. A leading exponent in this field is the old established French company of Alain Saint-Joanis well known in Europe and now more frequently available in top range shops in the US for its designs and superb quality flatware.

Flatware Settings

Flatware is normally offered in 5 piece settings consisting of a table knife, table fork, dessert/soup spoon, dessert fork, and teaspoon. Be wary in that European and US flatware settings can differ, however, most companies will provide whatever combination you prefer, especially if you have them made to order. The deep rounded soup spoon common in the UK and US is not made or used in continental Europe.

Most companies have a wide choice of serving and additional individual pieces such as butter knives (always an attractive and useful item), oyster forks and fruit knives. Match the number of settings to your dinnerware setting and add one or two to cover losses (it is surprising how often pieces disappear within the post entertaining cleaning process). Always have at least two serving spoons, however, for serving utensils antiques can be just as effective.

You should also consider whether you need matching steak knives (Jean Philip offer steak knives as part of their flatware ranges) or ones that complement your flatware choice. There are a number of specialist steak knives on the market such as Laguiole and Chateaubriand which are extremely attractive and very effective.

Weight and Feel

Weight is usually a good sign of quality but it should be well distributed, the item should feel comfortable in your hand. The more expensive the item the more likely this is. If in doubt test the item in the shop or if you are purchasing on the internet buy a minimal amount and then add to them later if you are happy with the product. You are purchasing flatware that will last and give pleasure for a lifetime.

Conclusion

Take a look at the bigger design picture, does it match or complement, does it feel right and remember it's always best to purchase quality.

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Comments 1 comment

jenna.stwart 8 years ago

those are some beautiful looking flateware. i cant wait till mine come in the mail. i got them from http://www.flatwarechoice.com

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