A traditional complete flatware set used to contain seven pieces for each place setting: dinner knife, dinner fork, dinner spoon, salad/desert fork, salad/desert knife, desert spoon and a tea spoon.
Of these seven, most modern flatware sets only contain the dinner knife, dinner fork, salad fork, soup spoon, and teaspoon. Some flatware sets now only contain three or four pieces per place setting, without the salad fork and/or the soup spoon.
Once you've got a decent set of flatware and are going to have guests, you might want to display it by positioning the utensils correctly on the dinner table. With a standard five-piece flatware service, the dinner fork goes to the left of the plate, the salad fork goes to left of the dinner fork, the dinner knife goes to the right of the plate, the soup spoon goes to the right of the dinner fork, and (where applicable) the teaspoon goes to the right of the cup and saucer. Those who plan on entertaining guests will probably want to invest in a larger set or purchase additional pieces separately.
Stainless steel is the most popular common choice now for flatware sets while those are made from silver are not only more expensive and only for formal dinning. Other cheaper and less common than these first two are silverplate (a thin layer of silver coating over a cheaper metal, such as nickel) or pewter.
It is also worth noting that not all stainless steel flatware is created equal. There are 18/10, 18/8, or 18/0 stainless steel. The first number is the percentage of chromium in the flatware, and the second is the percentage of nickel. The greater the percentage of nickel, the more resistant the flatware is to corrosion.
Some tips on how to keep your flatware set at it best.
Don't leave your flatware soaking in water for long periods of time, as this can cause corrosion over the years.
Acidic foods and liquids can gradually corrode your flatware. This doesn't mean you should avoid vinegar and tomatoes, just try not to leave dirty flatware sitting for days, covered in food.
To avoid streaks and water marks, dry your flatware as soon as possible after washing it.
- As a general rule, the higher the nickel content, the shinier your flatware will be — so an 18/10 set will be much shinier than an 18/0 set.