We all use it to eat (hopefully) every single day. Silverware, cutlery, and flatware are all names for one of our most valued tools that is taken almost completely for granted. Next time you pick up that spoon, it may be time to consider its origins. Maybe that fork has a story to tell, and that butter knife definitely has a history!
Flatware is much more interesting than many of us give it credit for. Some families have heirloom sets of actual silverware that has been passed down through the generations.
These can be incredibly beautiful, as well as very valuable. Famous sets of sterling silver cutlery have gone for tens of thousands of dollars. Some internet searches can turn up sets that are still on the market in excess of twenty thousand dollars!
A little out of your price range? That’s okay, because flatware can still be bought at most outlet stores for less than a dollar a piece. Knives were the first accepted eating utensils- followed closely by spoons. Spoons were created primarily out of necessity for eating soups and liquids. Drinking directly from the bowl could only get you so far. Silver was always a coveted cutlery material, but brass cutlery was very beautiful as well.
Check out these other interesting cutlery facts!
1. Silver Spoons
This isn’t just a saying that refers to the situation of a very rich person’s birth. Silver spoons were extremely elaborate utensils that were specifically designed for the wealthy. They would often be handcrafted with the families’ crest or symbol worked into the handle.
In the middle ages, most peasants ate out of trenchers and used only knives. The nobility and the very wealthy used the silver spoons. This gave birth to the saying that we all know today.
2. Famous Silver
The set of silver cutlery owned by Hitler and Ava Braun sold for a little over $17,000.00 when auctioned. Other silverware owned by historical royal and noble families can go for much more. A Christofle set of 142 cutlery pieces can go for more than $24,000.00. These may seem like incredibly exorbitant prices, but many people will pay for the history and handcrafted quality of these pieces.
3. Forks Weren’t Popular
Forks were initially recognized as an important tool in the Byzantine Empire. The actual origin of the fork is still a bit controversial, but it is said that they were first used as a serving utensil. They slowly took off as a personal eating piece by the 4th century.
The fork became especially popular in the middle east, where it eventually spread to southern Europe. Believe it or not, North Americans resisted using the fork until the 19th century!
4. Cutlery is Art
People rarely look at their silverware and believe that it could be an actual work of art. This is certainly the case for many beautiful brands throughout the world. There is famous cutlery depicting scenes from Alice and Wonderland, as well as others made in a modern art deco style.
It is also made from an incredibly wide variety of materials. Everything from plastic ware to silverware made from the bones of animals has become a popular addition to the dinner table. There are even forks and spoons designed to have a more mechanical look. These have handles that incorporate hinges, allowing the heads to be tucked in.
Some of these are still very much hand crafted, and can be custom made for personal use. Cutlery is coming back as a family heirloom, and will continue to be celebrated for years to come!