Hot Guide to Cutlery

What’s hot: your ultimate guide to exclusive cutlery

Cutlery is more usually known as silverware or flatware in the United States, where cutlery usually means knives and related cutting instruments. Although the term silverware is used irrespective of the material composition of the utensils, the term tableware has come into use to avoid the implication that they are made of silver.

Sterling silver is the traditional material from which good quality cutlery is made (hence the usage of the term in the United States). Historically, silver had the advantage over other metals of being less chemically reactive. Chemical reactions between certain foods and the cutlery metal can lead to unpleasant tastes. Gold is even less reactive than silver, but the use of gold cutlery was confined to the exceptionally wealthy, such as monarchs.

Steel was always used for more utilitarian knives, and pewter was used for some cheaper items, especially spoons. From the nineteenth century, electroplated nickel silver (EPNS) was used as a cheaper substitute for sterling silver.

In 1913, the British metallurgist Harry Brearley discovered stainless steel by chance and this metal has come to be the predominant one used in cutlery. An alternative is melchior, corrosion-resistant nickel and copper alloy, which can also sometimes contain manganese and nickel-iron.