When we think of flatware, most of us picture the standard cutlery we use everyday. But did you know that there is a lucrative market dedicated to the collection and sale of rare flatware? These exquisite pieces go far beyond the garden variety forks and knives we’re used to seeing in our kitchens. From soup spoons made of pure silver to intricately carved gravy ladles, who knew rare flatware could be worth so much?
There are many different factors that make certain pieces more valuable than others:
- Availability of item
- Uniqueness of design
- Polishing and smoothness
- Roundness, tines and edging
- Handle construction on knives
While hard-to-find designs increase the value of flatware, its overall quality can also determine how much you will get for these rare pieces. Well-made flatware is often heavier than its cheaper counterparts, and often demonstrates good “balance”. Lighter pieces tend to feel uncomfortable during use and your hand can feel shaky when holding cutlery made of softer metals.
If you own flatware with the characteristics below, you may be holding on to pieces that are worth hundreds (if not thousands!) of dollars in value.
- Fork tines are perfectly symmetrical and edges are rounded, making the utensil feel comfortable in your mouth
- Ornamentation lines are crisp, precise and contain depth
- Both ends of utensils are attractive to look at and well-proportioned
- Handle is comfortable to hold and feels nice when held with a solid grip
- No colour is exposed in the area where knife blade meets the handle
There’s a misconception that used flatware detracts from its value. However, signs of common use is expected, even on the rarest of pieces. Meanwhile, it is signs of damage that is much more detrimental to the value of flatware. Be wary of buying cutlery that is chipped, scratched or even bent. And try to avoid buying tarnished items online as the discolouration can be hiding signs of damage underneath. You may pick up tarnished pieces at auctions or estate sales. But always wipe down with a cloth to double-check its quality before taking out your wallet.
Because the price of flatware can rack up pretty quickly, it’s always a good idea to start out small and build your collection over the years. Begin with a three-piece place setting of some of the rarest flatware, and work your way up to a seven-piece ensemble. Don’t worry about mismatched pieces. There is always beauty in an eclectic atmosphere. And the uniqueness of your flatware will deflect any attention from the fact that they’re all different!