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German for cutlery

Introduction to Cutlery and Flatware Part 1

For any sales person that operates in the Cutlery/Flatware sector of the market one of the main problems is dealing with the consumer’s incomplete knowledge of cutlery. Nearly all consumers have a basic understanding of porcelain, glass, and crystal, but with cutlery they intend to follow the old maxim that if it is expensive then it must be good.

The average consumer, if asked, will probably list the various categories of cutlery as follows:



Gold plated.

Stainless steel.

Coloured, or plastic handle.

With the exception of silver cutlery (which we will leave out for the time being), the consumers are quite unaware that each of the above stated categories could themselves be sub-divided in various quality levels.

To begin with, let us examine stainless steel cutlery, which is used in the home, for hotel/catering, and for communities.

If you look on the back of a table fork or spoon (we will discuss the knife later) you will either see 18/10, 18/C, 18-0, or in very rare instances 18/12. But what do these numbers mean?

Steel itself is made from an iron alloy. To obtain the “stainless” other metals must be added. In our case they are chrome and nickel. The first type of stainless steel contained only chrome. However although it was an improvement on steel, it was found that if subject to water for long periods of time, rust and oxidisation marks were still inclined to come to the surface. It was later found that by adding nickel the resistance to corrosion was greatly improved to the standards that we enjoy today. It is interesting to note that the steel used for our cutlery is the same as that used for surgical instruments.

The first number that you see above “18” denotes the percentage of chrome in the steel. The second number,“10”,“12” denotes the percentage of nickel. “C” or “0” means that there is no nickel present in the steel, and therefore of an inferior quality.

For clarity please see the following chart:

Stainless steel Type Chrome Nickel
18/C 18% 0%
18/0 18% 0%
18/8 18% 8%
18/10 18% 10%
13/C* 13% 0,4% Carbon

*As you can see from the above chart, I have also included 13/C. This is a special steel that is used for knives. By definition a knife must be able to cut. If any of the 18/”” type steels were to be used, the blade would become blunt after a very short period of time, because these types of steel are “soft”. Instead the 13/C steel has no nickel content, but instead an additional component of carbon. This makes the steel harder and resistant to mechanical force. Once the knives have been formed they are heat treated so as to temper the blades, thus increasing the resistance and life of the cutting edge.

Important: Please note that 13/C steel is more expensive that 18/”” steels. Often Far Eastern producers use 18/”” for the knives so as to reduce the cost. Also the blades are not tempered which means that they have a very short life.

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