Flatware refers to table utensils used to serve and eat food, such as forks, spoons, butter knives and plates, all of which are fairly flat in design. This is contrasted to holloware, which refers to items in the shape of hollow vessels, including coffee pots, teapots, sugar bowls, salt and pepper shakers, cream pitchers and bowls.
Many homes have two sets of flatware, one for everyday use and a more expensive set for special occasions. An example of an expensive flatware set is sterling silver and china, while everyday flatware might be stainless steel tinsels with ceramic, stoneware or Corelle dinnerware.
Flatware utensils come in a wide variety of prices and styles. Their design can be austere and utilitarian, or highly decorative. Price depends on quality and the number of settings included, and can range from about US$10 for stainless steel at your local department store to several hundred dollars for sterling silver. Large placements of sterling silver flatware can easily cost well over one thousand dollars.
Among recognized names of flatware, like Oneida, Waterford, Tuttle, C.J. Vander and Lunt, some designers like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein also offer flatware. Other designers like Versace and Vera Wang have lines of coordinated dinnerware and flatware, sold separately. These highly artistic and decorative sets might be preferred to a traditional china set, and the dinnerware will include some holloware.
Expensive patterned flatware is available in single units as well as sets, usually of five. Purchasing the set saves money when getting started, but later it is possible to replace a single utensil or increase the setting "by one" or "by two" to meet your needs, without having to purchase an entire additional set. It is important to make a note of the manufacturer and the name of the pattern for this purpose.
Couples to be wed often register a pattern at a department store. The pattern might be available not only for flatware and coordinated dinnerware, but also for serving platters or hostess sets, crystal decanters and goblets or wine sets.
With the wide variety in styles, price range and availability, the right flatware can be found for any purpose, taste and budget. Many vendors are available online, so you can get a good look at patterns and cost without even leaving the house. For every day flatware, save money by checking to see that the set has what you require, without extra utensils you won't use.