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Flatware Gauges Explained

by emorgan on June 26, 2009

Now that dining has not only become a science but also an artform, you might probably be wishing for the days when life was so much simpler. But progress has done us good in a lot of cases, particularly in the appreciation of food and cuisine. So much so that we even have standards for flatware, those steel extensions of our hands and fingers that we hardly think about when we dine. Can’t understand what the numbers are all about? Here is an explanation of the different gauges for flatware to help you get a better perspective the next time you dine out or set the table:

What, exactly, is a gauge and why is it important?

In general, gauge refers to thickness of the flatware. More specifically, the thickness of the raw material’s used in its creation. Thickness is usually associated with the quality of the flatware, in that we generally consider good flatware thicker than low quality flatware. Thick flatware, for one, tends to be more durable and resistant to bending and breakage than thinner flatware.

Flatware with higher gauges are also generally more expensive than those with lower gauges because more raw materials are used in creating them. You can see this difference if you compare pricier flatware to cheaper flatware — the more expensive types are thicker and heavier.

Flatware gauge is also an important basis to determine the usage of a particular utensil. Soup spoons, for example, have lower gauges than dinner spoons while salad forks are thinner than dinner forks. Flatware gauges are generally indicated in millimeters (range starts at 1mm and thicker) or as percentages.

The gauge of the flatware is also a good reference to use when determining its weight. High quality flatware are generally heavier than low quality utensils. With higher gauges, users can expect durability and stability, two characteristics that ensure the usefulness of the flatware. Heavier flatware does not bend easily when used, which makes them a practical choice for most types of cuisine. Pieces are also well-balanced due to their weight, which makes them comfortable to use. Heavy-gauge flatware is also more flexible due to their make, regardless of whether you’re eating North American style or European style.

What do the different grades in stainless steel flatware mean?

Majority of flatware is made from stainless steel. Stainless steel is made from steel alloy, which contains a minimum of 11.5 % chromium metal. The higher the quality of the flatware, the higher the chromium content. Some high quality flatware may even contain as much as 18%. This is often the chromium content found in the best flatware.

Flatware gauges indicated as percentages are usually presented as the number ’18′ over another number, the most common of which are 10, 8 and 0. Eighteen is used to refer to the amount of chrome found in the flatware, the same metal that ensures the material its strength. The other number refers to the amount of nickel found in the flatware. A higher nickel content produces hard flatware which can maintain its shine for a long time and resists corrosion.

How do you know you’re using good quality flatware? Check the backside of the utensil and look for a stamp that indicates its steel alloy percentage. Flatware with 18/8 and 18/10 stamps are considered high quality or premium steel. These are the same combinations used to produce the more expensive brands. Check the thickness or gauge of the flatware, 1 mm indicates a medium weight flatware and 2.5 mm and above indicates extra-heavy weight.

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