These two terms are often taken to mean a catch-all for the same thing – i.e. knives, forks and spoons (etc.); and which word you use depends on which side of the Atlantic Ocean you reside. In the UK, we say “cutlery”; in the US they say “flatware”. The terms ‘cutlery’ and ‘flatware’ historically mean different things; as we explain…
That’s not a knife…!
The history of cutlery and flatware is one of change and development – constant evolution continues to the present day as changing eating habits and tastes are being interpreted serviced by cutlers and silversmiths.
Cutlery consists primarily of knives (literally, cutting implements), but as a generic term it includes knife-handled pieces such as carving forks and carving steels. Flatware means spoons and forks, pieces that are made flat and are then beaten or pressed into shape.
The first ‘spork’
The spoon dates back to the time when humans first needed to raise hot foods and liquids from a ‘stove’, but it was not until Charles II returned in 1660 from exile in France and Holland that his court popularised two pronged fork for eating.
The refined use of the spoon-fork, a combined spoon and fork utensil, became popular by 1700 and the custom was later fully established with forks gaining a useful third prong and sets of matching table knives were made – reduced from the former carving knives for individual use.
What did the Victorians ever do for us?
It was the Victorians that really expanded the number and variety of ‘cutlery’ pieces. As diet widened and became more sophisticated, specialised pieces for particular foods were developed. An early example is the fish knife, but later other pieces appeared, such as butter knife, cheese knife, fruit spoon, lobster pick, pastry fork, sauce ladles, steak knife etc. etc.. These innovations are now firmly established.
We offer the most comprehensive range of cutlery in the UK
At Lincoln House, we present the most comprehensive range of cutlery in the UK, including dining, ancillary and serving pieces available in a wide range of patterns in sterling silver, silver plate and stainless steel, from leading manufacturers Arthur Price, Carrs of Sheffield, Robbe & Berking – and our own Sheffield range of cutlery!