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  Category: Articles » Shopping » Article

How to buy and use your Silverware Chest

By Tuesday Knight

The formal meal served with fine silverware is a tradition that embodies the finest civilization has to offer. It is the combination of refinement and conviviality, and luckily we live in an age where such beauty is no longer limited to the 'noble classes.' The protector of this fine tradition is the often-neglected silverware chest, often called a flatware chest in the United States.

First things first, however, so let's talk flatware that goes in your silverware chest. When shopping for cutlery to put in your silverware chest, avoid purchasing Electroplated Nickel Silver (EPNS), which has been used since the 19th century as an inexpensive substitute for silver. A silverware chest, of course, suggests the presence of silver, and all top-quality flatware designs are made either from sterling silver or also from stainless steel. At a formal dinner, the utensils must always be made sterling silver.

The silverware chest you choose to house your silverware is just as important as the utensils themselves. Some of the most elegant silverware chests are made of fine woods—poplar hardwood, mahogany, oak, or cherry. Look also for craftsmanship in the handles and fine edges of the silverware chest—often made of brass and other fine metals—and for tarnish-resistant interiors.

A typical large silverware chest should service 24, which is roughly 200 to 250 pieces depending on the set. Although this may seem large if you have a small family, consider that a silverware chest is generally a piece of furniture, and as such your silverware chest works as much for décor as it does for utility. Some silverware chests can even be engraved for personalization, an elegant touch that instantly creates a family heirloom.

Serving a formal dinner becomes much easier with a silverware chest. In addition to a plate for each place setting, you should have the roll, the napkin, and silverware: knives go to the right, forks to the left. For coffee, spoons are placed to the right of the saucer.

You'll want to place your silverware chest in a place of prominence in your formal dining room, or in your kitchen, if that is where you celebrate festive meals. In some traditions, especially in continental Europe, silverware chests are left open during the meal. This is especially true if the silverware chest is of particular design or merit.

Remember this when you shop for a silverware chest: if it's worth showing, it's worth buying! Happy shopping!
About the Author
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