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How to Buy Flatware

flatware buying guide

3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy

  1. What design are you looking for?

    Try to match the style and formality of your flatware to your dinnerware. If your kitchen or tableware has a theme, look for coordinating flatware. For example, sea shell-inspired flatware is a nice touch in a beach home. Similarly, sets with colored handles are a fun way to reinforce your color scheme. Simple, undecorated flatware is a contemporary choice, while intricate patterns are more traditional and formal.
  2. Are you buying for everyday use or special occasion?

    A traditionally designed flatware set is a versatile choice that may work for all occasions. Look for features like a fluted handle or beaded edge. If you have formal china or a holiday set, you may consider investing in sterling silver flatware or a set of special serving pieces.
  3. How many place settings will you need?

    Match your number of flatware settings to your number of dinnerware settings. To be safe, sets that serve up to 12 people will accommodate most families and still allow for spare pieces; for example, if some were recently used and need to be washed. For an eclectic look or more casual celebrations, feel free to mix and match whatever you have. 
A single flatware setting typically includes five pieces: a salad fork, dinner fork, dinner knife, soup spoon, and teaspoon. Look at the "service for" number to determine how many settings are included in the set.

Flatware Materials

MaterialLookPriceConstructionProduct Care
Sterling SilverFormalMost expensive option, pieces start around $100Sterling silver flatware is high-quality, durable, and heavy. Silverplated means it has a nickel, copper, or zinc base covered in a silver finish.Hand wash and hand dry for best results. Dishwasher-safe when separated from other metals. Avoid soaking. Will tarnish, so polish regularly to keep shiny. 
Stainless SteelFormal or casualLeast expensive option, pieces usually run for less than $10-$50Available in three options: 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0. The first number (10) tells the amount of rust-resistant chromium. The second number represents the amount of nickel (luster). The higher the nickel, the shinier the luster.Dishwasher-safe, but avoid lemon detergents. Avoid soaking. Polish for special occasions.
For a heavier feel, look for pieces of stamped forged flatware, which are made from a single piece of metal. If you prefer a lighter feel, choose flatware with hollowed handles. Be aware that their three-piece construction means if it's too thin, it could bend or break.

How to Store Flatware

Don't forget hostess or entertaining sets—which include pieces like serving spoons and butter knives. They may not seem like necessities at first, but are much appreciated when entertaining.

    Flatware Serving Pieces
    Flatware Sets
    Flatware Single Pieces

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