Not all types of stainless steel are the same
The type of stainless steel used to make flatware is the difference between flatware that is durable and retains its luster or flatware that corrodes and turns gray over time.
The two major types of stainless steel used to make flatware are 420 steel, and 18/8 or 18/10 steel. The 420 steel (also referred to in the industry as 13 chrome steel) has 13% chrome content and is used to manufacture less expensive flatware. Although this steel is suitable for tableware and is resistant to corrosion, rust and pitting may occur especially if not cared for properly. Over the long term, 420 steel will become dull and lose its like new appearance.
The 18/8 or 18/10 is considered premium steel and is used to manufacture most of the more expensive brands of flatware. Flatware made with this steel will be stamped on the backside to distinguish it from other steels. The 18 refers to the percentage of chrome and the 8 or 10 refers to the percentage of nickel contained in the steel. This combination of chrome and nickel not only makes the flatware corrosion resistant, but it also gives each piece a lasting brilliance like sterling.
The weight and gauge of steel will make a difference in the price and value of flatware
Flatware that is made from 13 chrome steel and light gauge steel will cost less, but the quality may be inferior. The pieces will bend easily and probably need to be replaced over the long term. Flatware that weighs more and is made from heavier gauge steel may cost more initially, but it will be more durable and last for years to come.
What to consider when selecting flatware
- Choose a pattern that is pleasing to the eye. Hold the pieces to see whether they feel comfortable in your hand and are shaped and sized the way you like.
- Check for the 18/8 or 18/10 markings to ensure long-lasting, quality pieces.
- Make sure the pieces are balanced. Check the bowls of spoons they should taper to thinner edges at the tips. Make sure fork tines are finished they should taper to points and have soft edges. Each piece should be consistent both in size and shape to other pieces like it from spoon to spoon or fork to fork.
- Select flatware that is the proper size for the dinner plate you will be using. A larger plate will look better with larger flatware pieces. Also, check the knives for proper serration. Serration should be fine and on the reverse side of the blade. This prevents cutting into the dinnerware and is more pleasing to look at when the knife is placed on the right side of the plate with the blade facing the plate.
- All finishes whether mirrored, satin or platinum should be uniform without pits or scuff marks. With normal use, all finishes will show some abrasions and scuff marks but a beautiful patina will develop over time.