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Eating Utensils

Utensils for place settings (knives, forks, spoons, etc.) are the ornaments of your table that your guests touch, so make sure yours sends the right message. Place settings (often generically called "flatware" or "silverware" even though these terms actually refer specifically to flat utensils and those made of silver, respectively) are made by a number of major manufacturers with Oneida perhaps the leader, and many fine china and designers offering their own brands.

Material

Forgetting about plastic and aluminum utensils, your choices are mainly among stainless steel, silverplated, goldplated, and Sterling silver. Silverplated, and goldplated, and Sterling silver are difficult to maintain (require polishing), while the stainless ware provides an elegant, durable shine that is dishwasher safe. Your choice of plain stainless or with gold accents is a matter of taste with some preferring the elegance of gold while others perceiving it to be a touch too garish.

Shape

The utensils should be easy to hold. Rounded (typically hollow) handles are a more luxurious design, flat patterns that appear stamped out of a sheet of metal are the least (use those for picnics). Some manufactures offer flat utensils with a curve that gives the illusion of a rounded handle; these are nice for everyday use, but bring out the real rounded ones for formal dinners.

Weight

Silver is heavy; flat aluminum is light. Hence, weight is often a sign of quality and durability, and so you should choose the heavier, sturdier utensils for formal dinners.

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