There’s surprisingly little information about this out there, and I’ve found over the years that people tend to assume that once you become a Mrs or you acquire a household of your own you are somehow expected to be more knowledgeable about such matters. Especially, if you are a homemaker or are likely to host dinner parties often. So, I’ll start with the basics, first consider the three kinds of flatware available: Sterling Silver, Silverplate, and Stainless Steel. The first two are generally used in formal settings and require more care, while Stainless Steel fits a more casual lifestyle.
Traditionally used in formal dining, sterling silverware can also be used every day to transform any meal into a special occasion. Composed of more than 90% silver, this valuable flatware option resists scratching and breaking, and is designed to last a lifetime.
A cost-effective alternative to sterling silverware, silver-plated flatware is usually made of brass, nickel or stainless steel and finished with silver plating. The thickness of the plating will vary from pattern to pattern, but any way you slice it, the lustrous look of silver adds refinement to any table.
Stainless steel flatware is composed of a variety of iron alloys. The common designations 18/10, 18/8 and 18/0 refer to the percentages of chrome and nickel in the alloy. The first number refers to the percentage of chrome, added for durability and greater resistance to corrosion. The second number refers to the percentage of nickel, used to give flatware a soft sheen similar to silver. So, when stainless steel flatware is referred to as 18/10, it has 18% chrome and 10% nickel. Hard-wearing and luminous, this is considered the highest quality stainless steel, followed by 18/8 and 18/0.
If you intend on entertaining, you’d be better off starting out with a hostess set, whether host or hostess, these sets are an easy way to complete your flatware collection and a handy addition to your next dinner party. Commonly, hostess and completer sets include a tablespoon, pierced tablespoon, cold meat fork, sugar spoon and butter knife. Some sets might also include a pie/cake server, gravy ladle or casserole spoon.
There are a few concerns usually around setting the table, nobody wants to commit a faux pas and place the salad fork in the wrong place! This is an art, it’s intended to make meals feel most natural. Just remember, flatware is arranged around a dinner plate according to what’s going to be used first. The salad fork is placed on the outermost left-hand side of the plate, followed by the dinner fork. On the outermost right-hand side of the plate, the teaspoon is first, followed by the dinner spoon and dinner knife. A butter knife is typically placed above the plate for bread and rolls.
You can keep your silverware display-room worthy with a handy storage chest. An attractive way to organize your flatware, many chests feature lined interiors that prevent tarnishing. Keeping flatware stored in a chest instead of a drawer also protects against scratching and dust.