What Companies are Producing What Flatware
Flatware has held the same classic shapes almost since people began to eat with tools. Though fashions change through the ages, the basic shape of knife, fork, and spoon have held constant. Because of this continuity, many of the best flatware companies have been in business for hundreds of years.
The earliest silverware companies made pricey ornamental objects for the royal courts of Europe. To this day, Paris is still the world leader in the production of sterling silver flatware. Christofle, a cutlery manufacturer since 1830, has used its metalworking expertise to diversify into jewellery as well as traditional tableware. Christofle’s rival Ercuis has been designated a ‘Living Heritage Company’ by the French government, because its manufacturing techniques have been unchanged since its foundation in 1867. Both companies also work in stainless steel, but it’s their heavy silver flatware for which they are most famous.
If you plan to invest in solid silver cutlery, antiques can represent surprisingly good value. Estate Sterling, based in Paris, sells antique silverware which ranges from single teaspoons to $50,000 sets that once graced the tables of Louis XV.
Across the Channel in the UK, the city of Sheffield is the birthplace of stainless steel and famed for its high-quality cutlery. Founded in 1887, William Turner is widely accepted as the best cutlery manufacturer in Sheffield – meaning it’s probably one of the best in the world. Manufactured in solid silver, plate, and stainless steel, each individual item is guaranteed for the entire lifetime of the purchaser.
When it comes to stainless steel flatware, American companies dominate. At the top end of the market are companies like Reed and Barton, founded in 1824, which sells cut-crystal glass and silver gift items in addition to its silver plate and stainless flatware. British crockery manufacturer Wedgwood has broken into the high-end flatware market with its Vera Wang collaboration. The wedding dress designer has designed a range of desirable cutlery, including unusual design touches like matte coloured finishes.
Lenox is America’s most successful dinnerware manufacturer – founded in 1889, it now also owns the mid-range Gorham and Dansk brands. It manufactures cutlery and crockery in US factories, including North America’s only bone china plant. This patriotism means that Lenox goods are the official tableware of the White House.
Though Lenox may make bigger profits, Oneida is better known in the States. Oneida was founded as part of a Utopian commune in 1848, making and selling flatware to fund the collective. Since its buyout by Anchor Hocking in 2011, Oneida now sources flatware rather than manufacturing in its own factories, but it has kept its historical focus on quality.
Mikasa offers one of the widest ranges of flatware and tableware of any manufacturer. At any one time, it has over 500 different dinnerware styles on its books, including 40-50 different designs of flatware. As you would expect from such a wide range, the quality varies widely – from the finest 18/10 stainless steel down to bargain flatware.
A relative newcomer at just 25 years old, flatware manufacturer Hampton Forge is known for its trend-conscious approach. Much of its range boasts unusual details like etched detailing or titanium coating. Hampton Forge owns the Skandia and Signature ranges, as well as the colourful Tomodachi. It also has a high-end offshoot, Argent Orfevres, which uses forged blades for extra strength and gold vermeil detailing for beauty.
Whether you choose traditional European silver or modern American steel, these companies have generations of experience producing high-quality flatware to grace any table.
LINKS TO LEADING CUTLERY SUPPLIERS
Estate Sterling: http://estate-sterling.com/
William Turner: www.williamturnersheffield.com
Reed & Barton: https://www.reedandbarton.com/
Vera Wang: http://www.wedgwood.com/wedgwood-designers/vera-wang
Hampton Forge: http://www.hamptonforge.com/page/about