Cutlery is a fancy word for silverware or flatware. It's the pieces we set on the table on a daily basis — forks, knives and spoons. Most Americans associate cutlery with knives and other kitchen cutting implements, but in reality, the term "cutlery" can be associated with any type of utensil. The history of cutlery is quite interesting.
Although there are cutting implements dating back through human history, the earliest known bit of metal table cutlery was the knife, which is believed to have been used as early as 2,000 BC, though it was extremely rare. Spoons came along probably around 5,000 BC; the earliest found were made of stone or clay, not metal. Forks came years later, somewhere around the 9th century. These didn't look like the fork one sees around the kitchen table nowadays, more like a small spear.
Folks in the middle Ages primarily used their fingers to eat. If there was a knife on the table, it was shared with the rest of the family. Table knives didn't come around until about the 16th century. Prior to that, men used pocket knives, daggers, or whatever they may have been carrying on their person at the time.
At that time, there may have been a spoon present on the table as well. It's not sure exactly when people started using cutlery, especially forks, on a daily basis, though it's believed to be some time around the 17th Century.
As you can well imagine, only royalty or those of extreme wealth set their tables with cutlery on a regular basis. While many medieval families may have had a couple of pieces of cutlery in their possession, it was considered too fancy to be used on a regular basis and was kept in a drawer or put away for special occasion, much like what we do now with our good silverware and china.
At the end of medieval times, cutlery became more popular as table settings among the lower classes when it became trendy for people to entertain by hosting dinner parties. Before that, food was considered to be only a means to an existence. Once it became a reason to socialize, the silversmiths began to have a field day. Soon tableware could be purchased in many sizes and patterns. The emergence of cutlery in different patterns led to other coordinated table components such as dishes, cups and bowls.
Although we may take our cutlery for granted, but way back when, there were those who considered eating with a fork and knife a great privilege.