Everything you need to know about Stainless Steel Flatware
It's difficult to cut through the marketing clutter and really get at the facts, particularly when it comes to flatware. This article will tell you exactly what you need to know to compare products and select a service that will serve you for many, many years!
What is stainless steel? Basically, stainless steel containers more than 10 1/2% chromium. The chromium forms a protective barrier on the outside of the steel, known as chromium oxide. The more chromium the steel contains, the thicker the layer is, the more protection it has. Thus the chromium oxide barrier protects the steel from rusting and long as quality manufacturing techniques are used. The highest concentrations for flatware is 18% chromium. Insist on it.
Is stainless steel stainless? No. It is, however stain resistant. Failure to follow care instructions can result in bad things happening to your flatware. More on this later...
What about nickle? Nickle is another additive in stainless that improves resistance to corrosion. Nickle also makes the steel bright and helps keep it bright. The best quality stainless steel contains 10% nickel.
So, the highest quality stainless steel for flatware is 18/10. 18% Chromium and 10% Nickle.
Knives - knives will typically be 13/0, a bit lower in chromium and no nickle. this is necessary because knives must be of a harder steel to maintain an edge. This is normal and very acceptable.
One more note about the steel. The best flatware is made from virgin steel. This might be one case where recycling isn't presumed as the best choice. We insist that our partner manufacturers use virgin steel and we verify it. Why? It's difficult to keep the recycling stream free of inferior steel, particularly in China, where much of the flatware is produced.
Now that we've narrowed what the material should be... you need to be aware of how the manufacturing process greatly affects the quality and usability of your flatware.
Manufacturing - There are three attributes that define good flatware manufacturers. The first is that they have the ability to hot forge steel. This is necessary where the metal must be formed and bent. Hot forging reduces stress on the resultant flatware. The second is the manufacturer's ability to passivate the metal. For quality flatware, this is a necessary step where the finished flatware is electro-polished to remove any machine steel. Machine steel isn't stainless and any particles on the steel could interrupt the chromium oxide barrier and be a source of rust. Not good. The third attribute is actually a collection of best practices that insure the molds are correct, the buffing is done to eliminate pits... and that polishing results in the intended look.
We could go on and on but we're pretty sure that if you've read this far.... you'll know that we know flatware. We only work with first class manufacturers and we stand behind every knife, spoon, and fork we sell. Guaranteed!