Flatware is an integral part of any table setting. It is truly the workhorse of your table, used for both serving and eating (imagine life without it). Flatware is predominantly available in stainless steel, sterling silver and silver plate.
When it comes to your flatware, there are many choices. You can register for flatware in five-piece place settings (a place setting consists of a salad fork, dinner fork, soupspoon, teaspoon and knife) or a set (usually service for 8 with serving pieces). Sets can be a cost-saver, however, if you lose a piece or want to increase place settings later on, you'll often need to buy an additional set. My recommendation is to select your pattern by place setting. The selection is superior and you'll want to choose something that is well made and performs better over time. Quality flatware will feel better in your hand, too!
- Register for the same number of flatware settings as you do for your china and crystal. I recommend 12.
- Use the design rule of two to one with your crystal, china and flatware. This means for every two ornate items, have one simple item, or vice versa. You want a nice balance on your table that expresses your style, and is complementary, not contrasting.
- Don't overlook hostess sets. This is another great item to add to your registry. Usually available in two-piece, four-piece or six-piece sets, they may include a serving spoon, a serving fork, a slotted spoon, a gravy ladle a butter knife and/or a sugar spoon.Add other servingpieces like pie servers, etc., as needed.
- Register for flatware service for 12.
- Register for eight to 10 extra teaspoons and salad forks.
- Register for at least two hostess sets in your pattern.
- If you're registering for sets vs. individual place settings, get two
- If you're planning to register for two sets of china (everyday and formal), you should register for matching flatware sets.
The most common flatware is stainless steel. It will not tarnish or rust, does not require polishing and can go in the dishwasher. Stainless steel flatware will boast numbers like 18/10, which does not refer to the weight. It is the percentages of chromium and nickel in the stainless steel alloy. The 18 refers to the chromium content, which gives the flatware its rust-resistance, and the 10 refers to the nickel content, which gives flatware a deep luster or shine. So 18/10 is a good number.
By the way, it is called "stainless" but it is not always stain "proof." From time to time you may notice a knife blade with little brown spots. This discoloration can be caused by certain foods, especially those with high salt content. If these rust spots appear on your flatware, they can be easily removed with a nonabrasive stainless or metal polish.
Sterling silver is the highest end of the category and ranges in cost from about $125 to $750 or more for a one five-piece place setting. If you're fortunate enough to register for sterling, go for it! See more details on sterling silver later on, because there's much to know.
Silver PlateThis is a less expensive alternative to sterling silver. Silver-plating is done by taking stainless steel, nickel or brass, then chemically bonding liquefied silver to it. The layers of silver can be very thin. A thicker layer means better quality and longer life.
How tell the difference between sterling silver and silver plate
Most countries stamp sterling with one or more silver hallmarks indicating the purity of the silver and/or the mark of the manufacturer. It must contain at least 92.5 percent pure silver. The remaining 7.5 percent is copper, which gives it strength.Why does silver tarnish?
Silver tarnishes when it is exposed to sulfur, which is in the atmosphere. Humidity accelerates tarnishing, so if you live in a humid environment or even have a humidifier in your home, you'll be polishing your silver more often than if you lived in a dry region.
Certain foods like eggs and mayonnaise, and acidic foods like vinegar, ketchup, mustard, onions, salt and fruit juice, can cause spotting on silver, so wash and dry your pieces well after each meal.
How to prevent tarnish
You may be surprised to know that the best way to keep your silver flatware from becoming tarnished is to use it regularly. Frequent use and washing by hand will keep your silver shiny, bright and tarnish-free. Make sure you rotate your place settings so they wear evenly.
Cleaning, polishing and storing your silver
Opinions about putting your silver in the dishwasher differ. Some say no, but those that say yes recommend these modifications: Wash your silver separately from your stainless and rinse all food from the flatware before loading into the dishwasher. Use a very small amount (a tablespoon) of dishwashing detergent and make sure it doesn't contain lemon or other citrus additives.
Polish with a soft cloth (an old T-shirt is perfect) using any brand-name silver polish, and follow the package directions. Don't use dips or toothpaste. All flatware should be polished lengthwise so the patina stays in one direction.
Whether you choose sterling, plate or stainless, register for a hardwood silverware chest with a tarnish-resistant lining. Or you can use bags specially made of tarnish-resistant cloth. The key is to keep the silverware from exposure to the air.
- When registering, research online, but go into the store to see and hold the flatware in your hand. Have your groom do the same. Contemplate the look, feel, weight and balance
- Don't soak your flatware, especially in any aluminum container.
- Never use a knife as a screwdriver! To set your table: Forks always go on the left of the plate, knives (blade facing toward the plate) and spoons go on the right. Arrange the flatware in the order it will be used, working from the outside in.
- An easy way to remember the placement of your flatware is to correspond the words "left" and "right" with the number of letters in the words "fork," "knife" and "spoon." The word "left" has four letters, as does "fork." The word "right" has five letters, as do "knife" and "spoon." You'll never forget it!
- Flatware patterns generally are classified as:
- Square or angular (clean, strong, simple lines)
- Banded (simple to elaborate)
- Floral (romantic and detailed)
- Plain (classic shapes)
- Unique (distinctive and stylish)
Here are some top manufacturers that make quality flatware in a wide range of prices and designs: Dansk, Gorham, Lunt, Oneida, Reed & Barton, Towle and Wallace.