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A Fairly Exhaustive Guide to Flatware

For every kitchen table.

Photo: Mark Mattock
Photo: Mark Mattock

Flatware is not especially easy to shop for online — or in general, for that matter. There is just a lot to consider: weight, style, materials, dishwashability … and much of it looks so similar. So we decided to piece together a guide that would both help a novice know where to start and surface unusual sets for those who want something beyond the basics for a wedding registry or cutlery-drawer refresh. Most modern flatware is made of stainless steel, making a lot of it more affordable than the silverware of yore. Dung Ngo, the editor-in-chief of August, a design-and-travel journal and small press, says that stainless steel actually “democratized cutlery for everyone.” Ngo, a flatware collector who runs an Instagram account dedicated to utensils, explains the change from silver to steel followed the advent of the Bauhaus and other early 20th-century design movements that celebrated everyday substances like plywood, plastic, and stainless steel. If you’re not going with actual silver, we found, it’s best to try pieces made with 18/10 stainless steel — “the safest option if you want heft and something that will stand up to daily abuse,” according to Kelsey Keith, the editorial director for Herman Miller. The 53 sets below include something for most everyone, from traditional silverware, to traditional-looking (silver-colored) flatware made of stainless steel, to some rainbow-colored utensils beloved by writer Chloe Malle, to the official flatware of the 1972 Munich Olympics, which Ngo calls “the Rolls-Royce of cutlery.” Beneath all the sets, there are also standout singles — from soup spoons to knives with circular heads — for those who like to mix and match.

In This Article

I.

The Best Sets Across the Board

Utensils that were recommended repeatedly.

The Interior-Designer Favorite

Photo: Retailer

Combining three trends in one — gold, mixed materials, and color — Burke Decor’s Prism flatware set in tortoise was recommended by three interior designers, including Leah Alexander, Decorist designer Tina MartinDelCampo, and Modsy’s creative stylist Karina Lameraner, who calls it “a statement by itself.” Alexander agrees, telling us the flatware has a “chic and energetic” quality to it. The pieces are made of 18/10 stainless steel and acrylic; while the brand says they’re dishwasher-safe on a low-temperature setting, it recommends hand-washing as a better way to preserve the materials and construction.

The Could-Go-Anywhere Set

Bistro-style flatware, a classic of French design, is typically characterized by handles made of a nonmetal material, which give the pieces a more casual feel. (Some of these handles have little rivets that are used to hold their nonmetal parts to their metal bodies.) “I’ve always loved these because of their high-low design approach,” says Shane Davis, a partner and the creative director of community space Public Records, of this set of French-made flatware. “I can just as easily see them in a fine-dining restaurant as I can in a school cafeteria.” It has another fan in Claire Olshan, the founder of snack brand Dada Daily, who says the 18/10 stainless steel, dishwasher-safe flatware evokes “beauty, femininity, and untouched rawness of nature.”

The Café Kitsuné President’s Favorite

Photo: Retailer

According to Vinod Kasturi, the president of Maison Kitsuné and Café Kitsuné in the Americas, the Linea Q flatware (which interior designer Elaine Griffin also happens to use) “has low-key swag.” He says the “squared-off ends make it feel contemporary,” but the pieces still have a “simple, classic style.” Made of lightweight 18/10 stainless steel, Kasturi sums up the appeal of the set (which also comes in black) this way: “It’s no-frills, super high-quality, and still looks fresh after infinite dishwasher cycles.”

And a Less-Expensive Dupe

Photo: retailer

Like Sambonet’s Linea Q, this flatware has a classic silhouette with squared corners, but it comes at a lower price. Decorist designer Christina Manzo calls it “a beautiful everyday set that’s simple and elegant,” adding that the brushed finish on the 18/10 stainless-steel utensils “gives them a unique aesthetic that can easily transition from casual brunches to formal dinners.” While this set can be put in a dishwasher, the manufacturer recommends hand-washing. Shown as a set for one place setting, you can also get a set with 20 utensils (enough for four settings) for $160.

A Moody Black Set

Photo: Retailer

MartinDelCampo and Havenly’s Heather Goerzen are both fans of this black set. “Their slender yet sculptural shape and stark black finish makes them both modern and dramatic,” says Goerzen. If you like them, just know that, according to the manufacturer, the 18/8 stainless-steel pieces should be hand-washed.

The Best Value

Photo: Retailer

If you’re starting from scratch, you can’t do much better than this 65-piece, 18/10 stainless-steel set, which was recommended by two folks, Decorist designer Mikayla Keating and Ameena Walker, an editor at Design 233. Walker says the pieces “feel lightweight but sturdy” and that, along with table settings for 12, “you get a serving spoon, a serving fork, a slotted serving spoon, a butter knife, and a sugar spoon.”

An Apple Design Researcher’s Set

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Alyse Archer-Coité, who works in design research for the tech giant, calls these made-in-Portugal utensils “elegant forever” thanks to their exaggerated proportions — long, slender handles topped with large, rounded heads. While it’s dishwasher-safe, the manufacturer recommends removing the 18/10 stainless-steel set immediately after a cycle and hand-drying with a soft cloth.

The Best Basic Bistro Set

Photo: Retailer

Each piece in this 18/10 stainless-steel, dishwasher-safe set has a riveted thermoplastic handle, and you can get those handles in either black or white. We heard about it from Lameraner and Elena Frampton of interior-design studio and art advisory Frampton Co., who says its simple look makes the flatware feel approachable — an element that “puts people at ease” when you’re entertaining.

II.

The Best Flatware With a Design Pedigree

Collectible cutlery from various architects, designers, and furniture-makers.

Arne Jacobsen’s Danish-Modern Flatware

Photo: Retailer

“You can’t pick this up without thinking how gorgeous and streamlined it is,” says interior designer Ghislaine Viñas of this set, which was designed in 1957 for Copenhagen’s SAS Royal Hotel — and used by the crew in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Made of 18/8 stainless steel, it’s also dishwasher-safe.

Ettore Sottsass’s Cinched Flatware

Photo: Retailer

Those who can’t justify the price of an Ultrafragola mirror might consider investing in Sottsass’s more affordable (than furniture) flatware. “There’s something charming,” designer Ellen Van Dusen says, “about the wide handle and pinched neck” on the 18/10 stainless-steel utensils, which the manufacturer recommends hand-washing.

Antonio Citterio’s (Slightly) More Rubenesque Flatware

Photo: retailer

The longer necks on these utensils give their curved proportions a bit more of an hourglass shape. Designed by Italian architect Antonio Citterio for Iittala, the flatware is made of 18/10 stainless steel and is dishwasher-safe. Viñas calls the utensils “bold and distinct” thanks to what she says are their “perfect proportions.”

Alessi’s Achille Castiglioni-Designed Flatware

Photo: retailer

Keith calls Alessi’s Dry Cutlery “a classic designed by Achille Castiglioni in 1982.” After polling a bunch of her design friends and visiting Castiglioni Studio (where she “manhandled” all the Dry prototypes), she put this flatware on her wedding registry. “I love the contrast between the matte finish of the handles and the shiny finish of the cutlery,” she says, adding, “We don’t have to be precious with it — it looks beautiful in a real place setting but it’s still practical for everyday use.” Made of 18/10 stainless steel, she adds that the dishwasher-safe pieces have a nice heft.

Henning Koppel’s ‘New York’ Flatware for Georg Jensen

Photo: retailer

Viñas says that utensils from Georg Jensen, a heritage Danish brand recognized for providing goods to the queen of Denmark, are the type of flatware “you can keep for the rest of your life.” Made of 18/8 (and dishwasher-safe) stainless steel, she says the brand’s Henning Koppel–designed New York flatware has an “elegant and curvy” silhouette that makes it “friendly and comfortable.” Viñas adds: “This is the kind of flatware you pass on to the next generation.”

John Pawson’s Flatware With Five-Pronged Forks

Photo: Retailer

Conway Liao, the founder of home-goods brand Hudson Wilder, pointed us to this set. It was created by British designer John Pawson, who is known for his simple, minimal aesthetic. The dishwasher-safe, 18/10 stainless-steel flatware has a shinier mirror finish and a five-pronged fork, one more than the standard four. (Minimalists should know the set is available with a three-pronged fork, too.)

Jens Quistgaard’s Mixed-Material Flatware

Photo: Retailer

“Fjord, by Jens Quistgaard, is probably the first ultrasuccessful flatware design after WWII,” according to Ngo, who says it “helped define the Danish-modern look.” He likes how the mixed materials of wood and 18/10 stainless steel make this set “warm, not antiseptic.” Because of their wood handles, these should be washed by hand.

Carl Hugo Pott’s Olympics-Worthy Flatware

Photo: Retailer

Ngo describes flatware from German company Carl Hugo Pott as “the Rolls-Royce of cutlery” — all “super well-detailed and finished but not elaborate in any way.” This particular (dishwasher-safe) set is made of 18/10 stainless steel and was the official flatware of the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Gio Ponti’s Slightly Off-Kilter Flatware

Photo: Retailer

The spoons in the Italian architect and industrial designer’s set are “slightly hollowed out and look a bit like conch shells,” Archer-Coité says. And the heads on all three of the utensils are unique — they cheat to the left of the bodies. Made of 18/10 stainless steel, the flatware is also dishwasher-safe.

Peter Raacke’s Red, Ringed Flatware

Photo: Retailer

The German product designer debuted this Mono-Ring flatware in 1966, according to Archer-Coité. The trademark ringed handles (made of polyamide) have a functional purpose, too: to allow the dishwasher-safe, 18/10 stainless-steel utensils to be hung from a stand (which happens to be included with the 24-piece set).

’Brutalist’ Flatware by Maarten Baas

Photo: retailer

This 18/10 stainless-steel flatware that Dutch designer Maarten Baas created for Valerie Objects is what Dusen actually uses at home. She says the serrated knife “looks like a crude drawing of the real thing,” echoing the retailer’s description of the set as “brutalist.” Of the dishwasher-safe utensils, Dusen adds: “They’re high-quality and durable and also feel great in your hands.”

Editor’s note: Valerie Objects lists prices in euros, so the price shown is an approximate conversion in U.S. dollars.

III.

The Best Silverware

Silverware comes in two forms: all sterling silver or silver-plated. The latter are more affordable and more durable. The former are easier to clean and have a high resale value.

The Silver-Plate Set Favored by Marie Antoinette

Photo: Retailer

If you’re looking to splurge on a traditional silver-plate set, real-estate agent Robert Khederian says there are few better brands than Christofle, which was founded in 1907. “It mixes Louis XVI style, like the little bow at the top of each piece, with neoclassical detailing,” he says, noting a fun tidbit: It was apparently a favorite of Marie Antoinette. The flatware, conveniently, is dishwasher-safe.

An Affordable Vintage Silver-Plate Set

Photo: Retailer

And if you want silver plate for less, Goerzen tipped us off to Hester & Cook’s flatware sets. Each is made up of vintage and antique pieces from 1800 to 1940 that the brand sources from antique shops and then bundles, she says. “Each mismatched set has an heirloom quality,” she says. If you get these, know it’s best to hand-wash them.

Silverware Designed for Aaron Burr’s Wife

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Maconda Goodspeed, an artist who has been collecting antique sterling-silver pieces since the 1960s, says that her favorite online sources are eBay and Replacements. A favorite pattern she collects is Madam Jumel by Whiting Manufacturing Company, an American maker that has been around since the 1800s. (In addition to Whiting, other makers she says to look out for are International Silver Company, Towle, Durgin, and Bigelow Kennard Co.) She kept acquiring it after finding out the pattern was designed specifically for Eliza Jumel, Aaron Burr’s wife.

Some Heirloom-Quality Silverware

Photo: Retailer

These utensils by Towle, an American silversmith founded in 1857, are a favorite of Manzo, who notes that Towle makes “truly timeless silverware you pass down through generations.” This particular Old Master pattern’s “vintage beauty works with any design style,” she adds. Note that while the forks and spoon are all sterling silver, the knife has a sterling body with a stainless-steel head.

A Collector’s First Silverware Set

Photo: retailer

As Goodspeed explains, “one may choose a pattern for aesthetics but also sentimental reasons.” It’s the latter that led her to begin collecting the Old Colonial pattern from Towle. “My grandmother had a set of spoons, all different ones, and there was one that I really always loved from the time I was a kid,” she says, explaining that the spoon she fell in love with is from the company’s Old Colonial collection.

An 85-Piece Sterling-Silver Set

Photo: Retailer

While Hoffmann’s utensils have not been in production for as long as other silverware makers’, they’re no less collectible. Recommended by Archer-Coité (who says she “yearns” to own this silverware), the spherical finials on the handles make each piece look like an exclamation point.

IV.

The Best Silver Look-alike

Traditional-looking silver (colored) sets made of stainless steel.

A Set That Mixes Shapes and Finishes

Photo: Retailer

Liza Curtiss, principal at Le Whit design studio, uses this Fortessa flatware made of 18/10 stainless steel at home. If you look close, you’ll notice the utensils’ heads have a shiny mirror finish, but their handles are brushed, giving them a matte look. The dishwasher-safe pieces also play with shapes. “The circular shape of the spoons sets them apart from more common profiles” of the knife and fork, she says. “The balance and weight of the handle feel perfect in the hand.”

A Fortessa Jaxson Dupe

Photo: Retailer

If you like the look of the set above but want something more affordable, consider this set of similar-looking flatware that comes with just as many pieces — but for $100 less. Sam Bernstein, founder of hospitality group Table22, describes these dishwasher-safe utensils made of 18/10 stainless steel as “really good basics: They’re minimal but thoughtfully designed and relatively affordable, so you can feel free to use it every day.”

A Seaside-Inspired Set

Photo: Retailer

Griffin considers flatware “jewelry for your table.” She especially likes this splurgy, dishwasher-safe, 18/8 stainless-steel set with bamboo-inspired handles, which she says reminds her of her childhood in coastal Georgia.

Newly-Made Flatware With a Vintage Soul

Photo: retailer

Interior designer Gail Davis is one of those people who was lucky enough to inherit a set of 1930s-era flatware from her grandparents. While it is not cheap, she says that investing in this set of Mepra flatware would be a faster way to acquire heirloom-quality utensils like those her ancestors passed down. “Their classic soft curves are reminiscent of my grandparents’ flatware,” she says of the dishwasher-safe pieces made of 18/10 stainless steel.

A Slim, Streamlined Set

Photo: retailer

Sambonet’s streamlined Linear flatware has slender, rounded handles that Curtiss says give it a “more traditional profile.” In addition to the silver color shown, the dishwasher-safe set made of 18/10 stainless steel is also available in champagne, black, and copper tones.

A Set With Slightly Angled Handles

Photo: retailer

While it may look rather straightforward, Manzo notes how the “small angle detail on the handles really dress up this set” of dishwasher-safe flatware made of 18/10 stainless steel.

A Set With Slightly Hammered Handles

Photo: retailer

A couple interior designers — Manzo and MartinDelCampo — told us about flatware from Olivia & Oliver. Like the Fortessa Capri utensils above, these otherwise traditional-looking ones appear less so thanks to the hammered finish on the handles, which MartinDelCampo says gives them an organic, textural quality. The dishwasher-safe set is made of 18/10 stainless steel.

Hammered Flatware From a Heritage Brand

Photo: retailer

This less delicate-looking set of hammered flatware comes from Oneida, which has been making utensils in upstate New York since the mid 1800s. Made of 18/10 stainless steel, Keating recommends the dishwasher-safe utensils to folks looking for a “textured design.” Like all Oneida flatware, the set is backed by a limited lifetime warranty.

The Most-Registered-For Sets on The Knot

Photo: Retailer

Made of 18/10 stainless steel and dishwasher-safe.

Photo: Retailer

Made of 18/10 stainless steel and dishwasher-safe.

Photo: Retailer

Made of 18/10 stainless steel and dishwasher-safe.

The Most-Registered-For Sets on Zola

Photo: Retailer

Made of 18/10 stainless steel and dishwasher-safe.

Photo: Retailer

Made of 18/10 stainless steel and dishwasher-safe.

Photo: Retailer

Made of 18/10 stainless steel and dishwasher-safe.

V.

The Best Gold and Black Flatware

A Modern Set in High-Shine Black

Photo: Retailer

Viñas likes the flat, broad, angular design on this 18/10 stainless-steel, dishwasher-safe flatware, which she describes as “beautiful but not fussy.” The shinier finish, she says, gives it a look appropriate for both “everyday and elegant.”

A Classic Set in Matte Black

Photo: retailer

Walker tipped us off to this matte-black, dishwasher-safe flatware made of 18/10 stainless steel. She says the pieces’ classic form gives them “a simple elegance” ideal for everyday use. But the color, she adds, gives them enough punch to be used as “statement flatware,” too.

Even Simpler Matte-Black Flatware

Photo: retailer

This flatware has an even more traditional look but an equally velvety finish. (Crate & Barrel calls it “satin.”) Dishwasher-safe and made of 18/10 stainless steel, Keating recommends it for creating a “clean modern tablescape.”

A Truly Affordable Gold Set

Photo: Retailer

Goerzen likes this set from Target’s Threshold collection for its “simple form, sophisticated finish,” and, of course, the price — less than a lot of meals you might eat with it. It’s made of dishwasher-safe stainless steel, but the company does not note the composition.

Shiny Gold Flatware From Oneida

Photo: retailer

This set of gold Oneida flatware, according to Khederian, would “add some serious flair to your dinner table for a relatively low investment.” Covered by Oneida’s lifetime limited warranty, the dishwasher-safe pieces have a mirrored finish that makes them a bit shinier and are made of 18/0 stainless steel.

A Set in a Subtler Shade of Gold

Photo: Retailer

In a slightly less saturated color called Champagne, this flatware, according to Goerzen, is a bit less look-at-me than pieces with richer gold tones. She also appreciates the utensils’ “softly rounded angles.” The dishwasher-safe pieces are made of steel, but Crate & Barrel does not provide a composition.

An Italian-made Gold Set

Photo: retailer

Manzo says this dishwasher-safe, 18/10 stainless-steel flatware from Italian brand Mepra is her favorite to splurge on. The pieces have slender, rounded bodies that she calls “classic and timeless.” While she recommends them in the brushed-gold finish shown (telling us it has a “unique vibe”), the set comes in five more finishes at various prices, including a shiny copper, a shiny stainless steel, a shiny black, a brushed Champagne, and a brushed stainless steel.

VI.

The Most Maximalist

Rainbow-colored cutlery and a Polo Bar–inspired bistro set.

A Modern Bistro Set

Photo: Retailer

Without those silver dots on the resin handles, this set from Mepra, recommended by Curtiss, is a tad sleeker than your average bistro set. It’s also expansive: It comes in 19 different color options (some of which include multiple colors) and is sold in sets as small as service for one and as large as service for 12. Made of 18/10 stainless steel, Curtiss calls the dishwasher-safe flatware “playful yet still refined,” no matter what color you choose.

The Sleekest Bistro-Inspired Set

Photo: Retailer

Unlike the more utilitarian-looking bistro sets on this list, this two-toned set made of 18/10 stainless steel is slimmer and more elegant. Viñas says she’s “partial to the tapered polymer handles and sculptural heads,” which give the dishwasher-safe pieces “a bit of a Jetsons feel.”

A French-Made Set With a Tiny Bee on Each Piece

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Laguiole is a French company founded in 1828. Its flatware is especially substantial, with a heftier-than-usual composition of 25/10 stainless steel. Frampton recommends the brand to those who might prefer that weight, as she does. Laguiole’s flatware, according to Khederian, is also recognizable by a bee emblem where the handle meets a piece’s head, a tiny detail that he says sets it apart.

And a Less-Expensive Laguiole Look-alike

Photo: Retailer

Technically made by French Home, this Laguiole-inspired set is a great way to get that look for (a lot) less, according to Frampton. Just know it’s not as hefty-feeling because this dishwasher-safe set is made of 18/0 stainless steel.

A Set the Same Color As the Walls at the Polo Bar

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Griffin says the “two little silver rivets add Art Deco streamliner style” to this set of Ralph Lauren bistro-inspired flatware. Those handles come in a green that’s reminiscent of the accent color on the walls and dishes at the Polo Bar. Made of 18/10 stainless steel, the brand says this should be hand-washed only.

An Instagrammable Gold-and-Red Set

Photo: Retailer

Walker says these are particularly Instagrammable thanks to their slim handles, topped with outsize but more traditionally shaped heads, and bright color options: They come in pink, blue, and a Christmassy red. The flatware is made of plated stainless steel, but the retailer doesn’t list a composition.

A Multicolored Set With ‘Manic, Merry Energy’

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According to writer and Vogue contributing editor Chloe Malle, Matilda Goad’s Rainbow Cutlery is “the perfect antidote to quaran-malaise.” The flatware comes in two palettes — Red Hot and Cool Blue. Each set includes just three utensils (fork, knife, and spoon), is dishwasher-safe, and is made of 18/10 stainless steel and acrylic.

Some Single Utensils to Supplement Your Set

Plus some particularly nice-looking plasticware.

A Knife With a Circular Head

Photo: Retailer

“I couldn’t help myself when I found this knife,” says Van Dusen. While it has a circular blade, she says “it doesn’t rotate like a pizza cutter” and is meant to be used like a traditional knife. Made of 18/8 stainless steel, it is the work of Japanese designer Takenobu Igarashi, whose cutlery can also be purchased in full sets.

A Soup Spoon

Photo: Retailer

“Stunning and unique” is how Jing Gao, the founder of condiments brand Fly by Jing, describes the hand-painted Chinese-style soup spoons from Wing On Wo & Co., which she says is the oldest operating store in New York City’s Chinatown.

Antique Tea Spoons From Tiffany & Co.

Photo: retailer

Flatware collector Lynn Goldfinger specializes in vintage hotel silverware, some of which she sells on her website Paris Hotel Boutique. She says that hotel-branded flatware is even harder to find in sets, which is why many of her customers “mix and match different logos and crests from different hotels.” Those who don’t go this eclectic route, she says, tend to follow a specific trend: Buying vintage silver-plate Tiffany flatware, like this set of tea spoons, because it often has French-style patterns similar to those on vintage hotel flatware. Each spoon in the set has a gold-washed head, a hand-engraved monogram, and is stamped with the company’s name on the back.

A Tiny Fork for Eating Tinned Fish

Photo: Retailer

This oyster (or canapé) fork from Crate & Barrel’s Caesna line — one of Zola’s most-registered-for flatware sets — is what television writer Caroline Goldfarb likes to use for eating fish out of cans. Like the rest of the Caesna flatware, it’s made of 18/10 stainless steel.

A Disposable Set That Doesn’t Look Disposable

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For those occasions when you’d prefer something less precious, Griffin told us about this handsome set of plastic cutlery that includes enough knives, forks, and spoons to serve 16.

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A Fairly Exhaustive Guide to Flatware