Stainless Steel Flatware - the Workhorse of the Kitchen

Tom and I shop many estate sales....I had never looked at the kitchen silverware drawers.  I was more interested in those lovely sets of sterling and silverplated flatware.  I love them and I love finding matches for my customers and I have received countless notes and letters telling me how thrilled a family was to be able to once again use mom's or grandma's silverware at the holiday dinner.  Then, a sharp liquidator pointed me into the kitchen.  She said "you know, this stainless is quite valuable".  She showed me a set of Dansk Fjord.  It was service for 8 with serving pieces.  I immediately said no, I couldn't sell that!  She talked me into it.   At the time I was selling on that on line auction site.  My set of stainless flatware got over 20 bids and I made a nice profit  from the purchase.  Well, let me tell you, I was hooked.
 
It still took some convincing to make me seek out stainless flatware.  I tried to be choosy, but with not knowing what patterns were popular, it was like buying blind.  Even though the pattern was pleasing and in good shape, if no one wanted it, I would be stuck with a set of unwanted flatware.   A local estate liquidator advertised Russel Wright Stainless flatware...well, I thought, if the dinnerware is collectible, the flatware must be also.  I was so, so right.  I sold that set by the piece.
 
Now, I was getting really excited.  NO ONE looked at the stainless steel flatware in my area.  It was pretty much mine for the picking.  The very next week we attended an estate sale and arrived well after the first rush.  There, in the kitchen for 12 dollars was a huge bag of stainless steel.  Even without looking it up, I knew the pattern...Jewel Tea's Autumn Leaf.  The set ended up selling for well over $1,000.00. 

Many young people today don't want the chore of caring and maintaining a set of sterling or silverplate.  They love the easy care and casual feel of stainless steel.  Many have rescued or in herited mom's or grandmothers set.  If course, since it was the every day set, it was not treated so kindly.  Pieces were lost, went missing at the potluck, got scraped into the garbage or ended up in the backyard sandbox.  Now the hunt is on for those missing pieces.  I'm always on the lookout for quality sets.  Oneida was one of the biggest manufacturers of quality American made stainless steel for the latter part of the 20th century. 
 
Reference material is limited on stainless steel and I've learned by trial and error.  In 1998 Replacements published a comprehensive pattern guide to stainless steel flatware.  To the best of my knowledge it is no longer being published.  I'm guessing Replacements would have some copies to sell.  It has been an invaluable source for me as I've matched 100's of patterns and sold 1,000's of pieces. 

Now, at the estate sales while I'm looking at the silverplate and sterling Tom is out in the kitchen digging through the drawers looking for the stainless steel.  Sometimes we're lucky enough to find brand new sets, never used.   Many times, I find a set in the good silverware drawer in the dining room.  Many families had two sets of stainless, one for everyday and one for company. 

Stainless steel is sturdy and it can go in the dishwasher.  It polishes nicely using a quality stainless polish.  Most patterns had many serving pieces and lots of extras like ice tea spoons, butter knives and demitasse spoons.  And, if you think about it, stainless steel is what most of us grew up with.  It's what brings back great memories of mealtime and conversations around the kitchen table.
 
Carolyn O'Bayley
Cobayley Plaza -  http://www.rubylane.com/shop/cobayley-plaza

and Cobayley on Ruby Lane - http://www.rubylane.com/shop/cobayley


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