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How Do I Choose the Best Sterling Silver Flatware?

Sterling silver flatware.
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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 25 July 2014
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Sterling silver flatware is typically found in fine dining establishments or in the homes of people who host elegant dinner parties. Most homes have an everyday set of flatware made of stainless steel. The knives, forks, and spoons in this type of flatware are designed for long-term use and require minimal care.

When selecting sterling silver flatware, there are four key factors to consider: silver quantity, weight, design, and manufacturer. It is important to note that sterling silver requires more maintenance than stainless steel. This type of flatware tarnishes over time and must be polished and cleaned on a regular basis to maintain the same sheen and shine.

The very first item to look for when evaluating sterling silver flatware is an imprint that indicates the flatware is true silver. Each piece will either say “sterling” or a ratio of the silver content. This is typically shown as a fraction, such as 925/1000 and is pressed into the handle or blade of each piece. This value indicates the piece is 92.5 percent silver.

Silver flatware made in Eastern Europe or antique flatware may not have the value stamped into it. For this type of flatware, ask for a professional to complete an acid test to evaluate the quantity of silver in each piece. This test does not damage the flatware in any way, but provides an accurate measure of the silver content.

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The weight and balance of the flatware is an important part of the value. Hold a fork in your hand and close your eyes. A well-made piece should feel solid, but comfortable. There should be a natural balance to each utensil and it should have a natural fit to the curves in your hand.

The design elements of the flatware are quite varied, from ornate to simple, classic lines. Choose a pattern that appeals to you and complements your dishes. Keep in mind that silver flatware is often quite expensive and is typically considered an investment. Think long-term appeal and remember that silver must be cleaned on a regular basis.

Quality silver manufacturing firms have a well-earned reputation, developed over many years. Look for firms that have been in this industry for a long time and have a wide range of design options. Evaluate all the different designs and find one that meets your needs best. Sterling silver flatware is often passed down in families over generations, so select a pattern that will have timeless appeal.

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anon356086
Post 8

What's the best sterling silver flatware maker then?

anon341769
Post 7

Sterling won't tarnish or need polishing if you use it every day. You can wash it in the dishwasher with everything else. A lifetime of daily use and washing won't use it up, so what are you saving it for? It will still be in fine shape for your heirs and there will be many more precious memories they have to remember you when they use it every day too.

I think maybe there is a confusion between sterling, which is 95 percent pure, solid silver, and silver plate, in which a base metal is electroplated to have a thin coating of silver. Plate will indeed wear with use, so there's a reason it is washed by hand, and rarely used. It tarnishes because it isn't used and that's why it has to be polished before the big event. Less cost equals more work.

If you want something nice, price the melt value of sterling. Then go to ebay and look for the weight of the sterling silver in a set of flatware. There are online silver calculators that will multiply the price per gram times the grams of silver and you will know the bottom line. Unless it's antique or historical, it's just worth its melt value plus a small profit for the seller. Laugh at what retailers say it costs.

Silver service is a traditional sign of gentility. It means you were well brought up. Old fashioned, yes, but it's an investment in precious metal, much more affordable than gold and one that gives you enjoyment every day. It's worth it.

honeybees
Post 6

@golf07 - I have a set of Wallace sterling silver flatware that I bought a few years ago. You can expect to spend up to $1000 for a set of 5 pieces for something like this.

Depending on how many place settings you want, and how many extra pieces you want to include, it can get quite expensive.

I love to entertain and have a lot of parties at my house. This is something that I plan to have and use for the rest of my life and figure I will get a lot of good out of it.

Keeping the flatware polished is something I actually enjoy doing. I sit down with my favorite cup of tea, a good TV show and find it very relaxing to polish the pieces of flatware.

During this time I am also mentally making a note of my next party and planning out the details as I polish away.

golf07
Post 5

Many years ago my Dad was in the Air Force in Germany. When he was there he bought some china and a set of sterling silver flatware for my Mom.

I can still remember her getting out that special case that held the silverware and polishing it before a holiday meal.

Once I got a little older, polishing the silver became my job, and I wasn't too excited about it. I wondered what was wrong with the silverware we used every day!

I really don't know what sterling silver flatware prices are today, but know you would probably pay a lot more than my Dad did 50 years ago.

wavy58
Post 4

If you are looking in an antique store for sterling silver flatware, be aware that they most likely don't test the silver content in the store. I assumed that they would be able to provide this test, since I would be spending so much for it, but I was wrong.

When I asked the lady at the counter if she could do this test, she looked at me like I was crazy. She said she had never heard of such a thing. She also told me that since they were asking so much for it, then it surely must be real silver.

Since I would have to go to a jewelry store to either get a professional to test it for me or to get the acid to do the test myself, and I knew the antique dealer wouldn't let me take a piece of flatware with me, I decided just to buy a set elsewhere. I could get a set with the content already marked on it in a department store.

seag47
Post 3

My husband's parents are wealthy, and when they got us a sterling silver flatware set as a wedding gift, I knew they must approve of me. I have seen these sets for sale online, and they can cost over $7,000!

We make sure to use the flatware whenever his parents come for a visit. I polish it before they arrive to let them know I am taking care of their extremely generous gift to us.

My mother-in-law and I spent some time looking at kitchen utensils and appliances before they bought this gift. Little did I know that she was trying to get a feel for my taste in flatware design. I remember telling her that I loved flatware with vines and flowers carved into it, and that is exactly what she got us.

Oceana
Post 2

@Perdido – I would never take the time to polish flatware, either. However, I do understand why people want to own some.

For many people, it's something that they intend to pass on to their children and keep in the family for generations. So, they take their time choosing a beautiful, high quality set, because they want it to last for centuries.

My best friend got her grandmother's antique sterling silver flatware after she died. Her sister got the family china, and both are glad to have these heirlooms.

My friend only uses the silver on special occasions. She polishes it once a year, and she has already made arrangements to leave it to her daughter.

Perdido
Post 1

I barely have time for all the daily tasks I have to do. I can't imagine buying a set of flatware that would require so much time and effort for maintenance!

I work full-time, and I have four kids to raise. We have some stainless steel flatware, and we are perfectly happy with it.

It retains its silver color, even after years of going in the dishwasher. I have never once had to polish it, and I probably never will.

I suppose that people just buy sterling silver flatware when they have someone to impress. Anyone who comes to my house already knows that I am not rich, and any new people I meet and invite over will figure that out soon enough.

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