Forget the Sterling Silver or Silver-Plate, buy 18/10 Polished Stainless Steel flatware instead

My William-Sonoma Morgan Pattern 18/10 Polished Stainless Steel Flatware

My William-Sonoma Morgan Pattern 18/10 Polished Stainless Steel Flatware

For years, when it came to setting an elegant dining table, sterling silver or silver-plated flatware was all that was used. Most people get their fine dining utensils at the time of marriage, or through an inheritance from a loved one. All those sterling or silver-plated pieces can be / are quite beautiful, but beside being expensive, you have to periodically clean them, as they have a tendency to tarnish.

When we were kids, my mother used her set of Rogers silver-plate flatware for eight, that was a wedding gift. It came out of its felt lined mahogany box 3 times a year, right before dining. All the knives, forks and spoons had to be polished because while not in use they had all blackened. I remember, after a certain age, taking the silver polish and a cloth and running over it, so the Rogers would be gleaming at dinner time.

Years late, when I had started hosting dinners for family and friends, the idea of getting a proper set of flatware was a must. Being a busy person, and not wanting the maintenance of cleaning flatware to serve 12, instead of looking at silver-plate or sterling silver (and sterling now costs a fortune), I looked into high quality polished stainless steel.

Before making any kind of purchase I made the rounds; I looked through many stores that sold tableware products in my area (the Capital District of Albany, NY) and also venturing down to New York City to see what they had to offer.

I am a person who likes to self-educate, so I asked a lot of questions, the same questions over and over, everywhere I went, to see if different people gave me the same, or different responses. If I find a similarity of answers, I’m more prone to believe what they are saying.

I looked at flatware in all price points from the medium to extremely high. What I had found was that in both the medium and high-end stores, when it pertained to polished stainless steel cutlery, both were offering flatware called 18/10.

The numbers 18/10 refer to the amount of Chromium (first number) and Nickel (second number) used in the metal that makes up that piece of flatware. Chromium is a hard metallic substance that increases product hardness and durability, provides brilliant luster and ease of maintenance. Nickel is a silvery metallic element that resists corrosion.

Stainless steel flatware comes in three numeric categories: 18/10, 18/8 and 18-0. 18/10 has the most shine and durability, whereas 18/0 has the least shine, zero nickel content, has an inexpensive price point and is subject to staining.

When buying flatware, don’t order it on-line, from catalogs, or through home shopping on TV unless you know its exact name and have looked at, and handled it in true life.

Flatware comes in two sizes: Standard and European model sizes. European flatware is generally bigger and heavier than standard silverware.

When buying flatware, you want to pick it up to see if it is balanced and feels comfortable in your hand. Look for it to be evenly weighted from one end to another. You don’t want a spoon with a heavy bowl, but a light shaft. Secondly think about how its handle feels in your hand. Pretend to bring it up to your mouth to eat with it. By doing that, you will see how it feels as you maneuver it through space. Sometimes a very modern simple styled piece might have a handle/shaft that looks stylish in a picture, but is awkward to eat with. On the flip side, a very wide or decorative handle might not be comfortable holding for long periods. If you are buying thin handled flatware, make sure it is at least thick enough so as not to poke through the bottom of the cutlery basket in your dishwasher. When looking at knives, make sure there is a good edge on them for cutting through any texture of meat. Also, run your fingers over the handle and eating part of the flatware to feel for smoothness.

When picking a pattern for flatware, sometimes less is more. Look for flatware that is not overly sculptural / decorative, because it will be competing with your dishes, table-cloth, table runner, napkins and table top decorations. Even the grandest of flatware silhouettes come in a pattern that is toned down somewhat.

18/10 stainless steel flatware can tarnish a bit. Most often it happens when a person uses a dish washing soap that has lemon as part of its base. The citric acid of the lemon affects the stainless steel. If you see the brilliance going a bit, touch up your flatware with a good quality stainless steel polish made for flatware, and look for a non-lemon dish washing soap or dish washer liquid.

Good quality, as well as everyday eating utensils should be stored in drawers with some kind of divider in them. Stack like sized forks and spoons one on top of another, and try to place knives so their blades don’t bump / rub up against each other, which could cause scratching.

So there you have it, my recommendation for buying flatware that is both stylish, sturdy and easy to maintain. The 18/10 flatware I purchased more than 15 years ago is still looking great, and I love it. Over the years I’ve read things about how products and quality of construction changes so shop carefully. All I have to say now is Bon Appetit Friends and enjoy your new flatware.

Companion Post.. TWELVE Reasons to buy White Dishes 4-12-2013


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16 Responses to Forget the Sterling Silver or Silver-Plate, buy 18/10 Polished Stainless Steel flatware instead

  1. teresa says:

    Very good advice, especially concerning the weight in handling and issue of skinny handles that can poke one’s palm when cutting food.
    I’d never heard of the lemon/tarnish connection so thank you.
    I think the perfect solution to the problem of tarnishing silver and silverplate is to use it! Why save one’s nice things for a “special” event, when everyday is special. I can’t count how many times I’ve thanked the prior owners of stuff I’ve thrifted for taking such good care of it.
    P.S. Your choice looks really beautiful and classic.

    • Hi there Teresa. The lemon tarnishing advice came to me from a lovely sales lady in one of the BIG Upscale Department stores in NYC. My mother was gifted a set of low end flatware once, that if the forks were not placed into the dishwasher prongs down, the handles would go through the basket, and the spinning arm on the bottom of the dishwasher would hit into them. All the things I cover on FGGH are things I’ve experienced myself, or are ways I would approach a topic if I were doing it.

      When I was looking for flatware, I wanted something with minimal decoration on it that could go with modern or traditional, and be used in the dining room and outside for picnics. I have everyday flatware, but when friends or family come over, I get out the good stuff, so it is used throughout the year. My 18/10 Morgan pattern was made in France. I love the large size of the pieces, especially the big spoons. The Spoons are great for eating a hearty soup with, or for using as extra serving spoons for small gatherings.

      • Joan Mason says:

        I, too, have 18/10 Morgan flatware and love it! However, Williams-Sonoma no longer has the 18/10. they now sell 18/8, which is vastly inferior! I have tried but they also only have 18/8. Any advice on where I might get some 18/10 replacement forks? I only have 8 left (somehow 4 have disappeared over the years) and when I have company I am forever handwashing forks!

      • Hi there Joan, I have no advice for where to find the 18/10 pieces. Maybe E bay or Google search William-Sonoma 18/10 replacement pieces. I want to say, every time I have a party I count my Morgan pieces before the garbage goes out. A few times over the years, when friends were helping me to move dishes and flatware from the dining room to the kitchen, for some reason, things like dessert/salad forks ended up in the trash. After that, no matter what, I go through the trash after every party. The funny thing about going through the trash is that you can see what things people only ate a couple bites of and then discarded. Knowing that, next time I don’t offer that food product. Happy Holidays; I hope you find more 18/10 pieces, and for a good price.

        ps. One time after a party I found two small empty booze bottles that one of my guests must have swigged and thrown in the kitchen trash can. Never found out who it was, but I laugh every time I think of it.

      • Joan Mason says:

        Thanks so much for your reply! Great story! Have already checked ebay and google to no avail. 😦

      • Hi there Joan, I was thinking, how about going to different stores with one each of the pieces you have (fork, spoon, salad fork and tea spoon), and look for another set of flatware that would go with/ compliment what you have. Make sure the pieces look matched for size. Morgan is European sized. I’m not saying it has to match, but look good along side what you have. Then when setting your table, alternate the Morgan pattern and the new pattern from place setting to place setting. It will look intentional, and your display will look imaginative.

      • Joan Mason says:

        Thanks! Great idea!

  2. Donald says:

    Hi there – I just found your site and it’s helping out a lot with my small townhouse remodel. I’m starting with no furniture and love the ideas about sofas, chairs, lamps etc. Also here about tableware – I have a set that I love (minus the knives). The balance on the forks/spoons is perfect – I love the heavy European as well – but the handles on the knives are so heavy that if you put a knife, blade first, into the dishwasher bin, or into say, a mug, in the sink, they’ll flip out. LOL. But other than that, I love them – have had the set for 13 years now.

    I look forward to shopping for me after the holidays!

    • The Happiest of Holidays to you Donald, I want you to kiss the back of your hand and say the famous Telly Savalus line “Who Loves Your Baby”, then go out and be the best Santa to yourself, Thanks for your comment!

  3. I_Fortuna says:

    Although I have and use stainless steel, I much prefer silverplate or sterling. Stainless, regardless of the quality, looks cold and often the decorative types do not have a crisp detail.
    Silver has a more warm, elegant and “alive” look and feel to me and so having two sets, I use it often. One can have the most plain pattern and if it is silver or plate it will still look inviting.
    One can buy sliverplate for almost the same price as stainless,so why not?
    Some stainless seems to be very overpriced. One high end and well known brand I bought looks horrible after only a year of use. The tines on the forks were not polished but rough in between the tines. I was very disappointed in this set.
    By the way, I alway hand wash all my flatware.

  4. Gustave Le Bon says:

    I’m here, as I too seek multiple sources to corroborate claims.

    You misspelled “nickel” though twice, and that undermines the topic at hand, which is exclusively the content of the flatware that is the subject of the writing!

    Thank you for the rest of the information. I’ll add it to the pile for sorting!

  5. Susan Smith says:

    Thanks for your useful advice. Williams Sonoma are always borrowing from classic English and French designs. Your cutlery is based on the pattern commonly called Thread, and anyone interested in buying it might want to look at Carrs’ version, which is made to the very highest quality in Sheffield, England.

  6. Susan Smith says:

    Incidentally, I should add, that you can order per piece from the great Sheffield companies (though, there are not many left of them). Carrs may be the best remaining. I am about to order a set of their Old English cutlery, a simple design from the 1700’s.

  7. Pingback: Top 20 what does 18 10 mean on silverware –

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