FUNCTIONS and SIZES of FLATWARE: ©

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LUNCHEON – DINNER –  PLACE –  CONTINENTAL ?

Before World War II, sterling knives and forks made by manufacturers of the American Sterling Silversmiths Guild were made in both ∗luncheon and dinner sizes: proportions were aligned to sizes of luncheon and dinner plates.  Other place setting pieces as teaspoons, soup spoons, salad forks, butter spreaders and serving pieces were usually one standard size.

Most Internet information regarding flatware sizes is incorrect.
∗Luncheon size isn’t even mentioned,
yet this was the best selling size of U.S.sterling flatware prior to WWII.  

After World War II, these manufacturers decided to make knives and forks for all new patterns in a new place size: larger than luncheon knives and forks but smaller than dinner size. 

All new sterling patterns were made only in place size —but place size was added to best selling older patterns. This solved production and inventory problems for manufacturers and retailers but price lists for all three sizes confused consumers.

At that time, flatware factories kept dies for all older patterns
so consumers requiring luncheon or dinner sizes could complete
their services by special order.

Continental knives and forks, larger than place size, originated in Europe and were standard for European made flatware; even for international sales.

Today, most knives and forks of European origin are continental size
and most knives and forks of U.S. origin are place size.  

Sadly, mass-produced flatware of any metal is no longer made in the United States.

PLACE SETTING SPOONS:

Teaspoons ·  tablespoons ·  dessert spoons · coffee spoons ·
iced tea spoons · soup spoons
These are the shapes and sizes of spoons traditionally made in sterling;

not all in every pattern—nor every metal.

SOUP SPOON VARIATIONS :

Place spoons:  bowls are elongated to use with soup plates and desserts.
Cream soup spoons:  bowls are round to use with cream soup bowls.
Consommé soup spoons:  bowls are petite to use with consommé cups.

For sterling, silver-plate and stainless steel;
the standard soup spoon is place size.

PLACE SETTING FORKS:

Place  ·  luncheon  ·  dinner  ·  salad  ·  dessert  ·  ice cream  ·  fruit  ·  cocktail
These diverse sized forks were traditionally made in sterling— but not all in every pattern—and fewer sizes in stainless steel.  Currently, place forks and salad forks seem to be the standard forks in most stainless steel patterns, but if you need sizes not made in your pattern, go ahead and MIX.

Fork tines:
For all forks in all metals, tines must be uniform in length: tips must be regular, tapered and well-finished. Edges and both side walls of each tine must be rounded and polished because bacteria clings to rough surfaces and is not guaranteed to wash away from between fork tines—not even by the hot swishing water of dish-washers. Be fussy!  

Currently, in several retail stores, I’ve held stainless steel forks
I could have used to file my nails!

 PLACE SETTING KNIVES:

Place knives · luncheon knives · dinner knives · fruit knives · steak knives · butter spreaders (some patterns are available with both flat or hollow handles).

These are some of the ‘specific-function’ knives that were always available in sterling silver—although not all in every pattern.  Fewer sizes and styles of knives are made in silver-plate and stainless steel.

As explained in the previous post: Design and Production of Flatware, one-piece knives do not hold a good cutting edge.  The solid flat handle and blade are austenitic steel which cannot be hardened by heat.

one piece knife

Two-piece knives are considered better because they’re lighter, provide a better grip and patterns can be cleanly die-struck on each half before they’re soldered together.  However, the blades do not hold a good cutting edge—even though the grade of austenitic steel of the handle is different than the grade of austenitic steel of the blade.

tang of blade in handle

Although these handles are called hollow,  they’re filled with lead to hold the tang (an extension of the stainless steel blade) inserted into the handle.  After heat sealing,  the blade is secure.

PLACE SETTINGS:

4  piece: Knife, fork, salad fork and teaspoon.
5  piece: Knife, fork, salad fork, teaspoon and soup spoon.
6  piece: Knife, fork, salad fork, teaspoon, soup spoon and butter spreader.

SERVING PIECES:

Spoons: Tablespoon, pierced tablespoon, sugar spoon, large salad spoon.
Forks:     Cold meat fork, olive fork, lemon fork, large salad fork.
Knives:  Butter knife, cheese knife, cake knife, bridal cake knife, bar knife
Other:    Gravy ladle, jelly server, pastry server, bon-bon spoon, carving set,
steak carving set.

OPEN STOCK:

All single flatware pieces (not packaged in a set) are called open stock.  This means individual flatware pieces can be purchased one-piece-at-a-time.

However, not all place sizes (e.g. iced tea spoons and cocktail forks) and serving pieces are made in today’s sterling, silver-plate or stainless patterns.

Open stock is usually a more expensive way to purchase flatware but offers the convenience of purchasing flatware by the piece and the opportunity to add pieces over time.

SERVICE SETS:

A flatware starter set is a basic ‘service for 4’.  Services for 8 or 12 are usually attractively boxed to include some serving pieces and may also include double teaspoons.  Set savings are considerable—compared to open stock prices.

BEWARE OF BRAND-BIAS ADVERTISING

 Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

MY NEXT POST:  HOW TO CHOOSE FLATWARE

DESIGN AND PRODUCTION OF FLATWARE©

 

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Although flatware appears to be uncomplicated, visits to several renowned factories made me appreciate the complexity of production methods requiring costly tools and complex dies necessary to mass-produce good quality flatware. 

Artisan Production:

Sterling silver flatware began as artisan production.  Although they are few, artisan makers of sterling flatware still work globally. Production begins by hammering an ingot of sterling silver or hand-cutting sterling silver sheet stock.  Hammering an ingot of sterling makes metal denser than sheet stock —so the end product is more costly.

Heavy metal dies, some centuries old, are used to strike uniform and articulate patterns in handles and the purity of the metal, date, hallmarks of the maker and even the place of origin are inscribed on each piece. 

Mass-Production:

The mass-production of flatware is global. However, elaborate, costly tools and dies necessary to mass-produce flatware, coupled with the increased cost of labor and of some metals, has forced the closing of established flatware factories in many countries.

Stainless steel is today’s most popular flatware metal, followed by silverplate (electroplated silver over a base metal). Diverse styling is available for traditional or contemporary taste in all metals. Economies of scale make costly technology affordable—relative to the price of the raw material.

Every good quality flatware manufacturer has sequential variations of the following photographs that illustrate some of the production procedures for making stainless steel flatware.

PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES:

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After designs are worked on paper, prototypes of each pattern are created to assess the beauty of the design and to perfect the function and balance of each piece—prior to assigning the pattern to a master die cutter.

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In order to assure ‘perfect’ steel production dies that will press articulate pattern details on both the front and back of every piece of flatware, some manufacturers first make resin models for every piece of every pattern.

Flat stock:  Outline/Die struck:

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Sheet stock of a base metal alloy is cut into spade-like ‘blanks’ in a process called blanking. Steel dies strike-out each piece according to an exact outline. Where necessary, pieces are trimmed.

Grading:

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Blanks are grade-rolled and cross-rolled to create variations of ‘thick and thin’ for strength and balance as required. Profiles reflect this production principle of quality.

iics for book 053

 Ungraded flatware will bend with use.
This graded fork—is impossible to bend with use.

Spoons:

scan0098 (2)
From teaspoons to soup spoons to serving spoons, the bowl of a spoon carries both liquids and solid food so it must be sufficiently deep, have a comfortable, controllable handle and no sharp edges to scrape against one’s mouth.

Knives:

Handles for two-piece knives are made as two-halves, enabling each half to receive a die-struck clean, sharp design.  Seams must be invisible so they’re polished away after the two-halves are soldered together. Called hollow, the soldered handles are filled with lead to secure the inserted tang of the blade into the handle—and fused with heat for permanency.

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Blades:

The job of a knife is to cut: how well it cuts depends upon the blade. The solid handle and blade of one-piece knives are made of one durable stainless alloy —but does not hold a sharp cutting edge.
one piece knife
Stainless steel blades are used for all two-piece knives, including sterling and silverplate. Stainless steel two-piece knives are made with one grade of an austenitic  (iron-chromium-nickel) stainless steel alloy  for the handle and a different grade of austenitic stainless steel for the blade (see blade insertion photo). This certainly cuts better than a one piece knife but austenitic steel blades cannot hold a sharp edge; they cannot be hardened by heat treatment.  This is the reason many flatware manufacturers use serrated blades.

Master chefs claim serrated blades rip—rather than cut meat:
nevertheless, many of us use flatware with serrated knives. 

Martensitic steel (18/10 alloy with high carbon content—no nickel), has superior edge retention because it can be hardened by heat treating. Martensitic blades do hold a sharp edge— but because of cost, they’re not used by many flatware manufacturers. Martensitic  steel is commonly used for medical tools as scalpels, razors and internal clamps.

Blade insertion:

x blade with tang
The tang (an extension of metal on a blade) of a two-piece knife is inserted into the hollow handle, filled with lead—and fused with heat for permanency.

Forks:

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Exacting engineering procedures assure uniformity of the length of fork tines. Tine tips must be even, polished and not sharp.  All edges and flat surfaces—especially edges and walls of each tine —must be smooth and polished.

Polishing/buffing:

Edges of every piece of flatware, especially between fork tines, are buffed and polished mechanically and finished by hand.

When you shop, compare similar patterns at different retail prices and be sure you can identify quality differences

 Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

My next post:
FLATWARE  SIZES: LUNCHEON – DINNER –  PLACE –  CONTINENTAL ?

FLATWARE  IN OUR LIVES©

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Quality flatware is determined by raw materials and production methods
—including labor intensive finishing techniques; 

not price.

These posts discuss timeless, unbiased standards of quality from designers and technical experts at international flatware factories renowned for excellence. It’s impossible to judge the quality of flatware without first understanding the metals and complex tools and dies necessary to create balanced shapes and articulate patterns.

Economies of scale make mass-produced flatware affordable relative to the metal used. In order of current popularity, they are: stainless steel, silver-plate and sterling silver.  Production methods may differ for each metal but all are complex.  If we understand these differences, we can choose good quality flatware at prices each of us can afford.                         

FLATWARE  METALS:

Sterling silver:
Fairly abundant in ores, silver is lustrous, malleable and ductile and has been used for ornaments and coins since about 4,000 B.C.  Sterling silver is 925 parts pure silver mixed with 75 parts copper for hardness. Sterling silver flatware is marked sterling or.925.  Sterling flatware lasts throughout many generations and retains its intrinsic value.

Vermeil:
Vermeil is gold plated sterling. Vermeil became popular after Jacqueline Kennedy restored Monroe vermeil flatware found in the basement of the White House.

Silver-plate:
Silver-plate flatware is a layer of silver electroplated over a base metal of nickel silver or stainless steel. Less costly base metals are copper or brass alloys.  In time—depending upon it’s thickness, silver plating wears off. The word silver-plate and the manufacturer’s name should be on each piece.

Some manufacturers silver-plate their stainless steel production flatware. I visited one factory who, for the sake of durability—electroplate stainless steel first in copper— then silver.  Markings of EPNS silver-plate means the flatware base metal is nickel-silver, a superior base metal.

If you choose silver-plated flatware, question the purity and thickness of the silver plating and be sure to ask for possible warranties.

Stainless steel:
Good quality stainless steel flatware is an alloy of iron, 18% chrome, 8 % nickel and a minimum of other metals. Chromium adds rust and corrosion resistance, nickel adds shine. 18/10 stainless flatware is better quality than 18/8 because it contains more nickel. 18/0 stainless steel has no nickel. Alloy designations must be marked on every piece. Both 18/8 and 18/10 alloys are low maintenance and durable.

Stainless steel flatware, stain less—not stain proof, was first made in the 1930’s. The first patterns were severely plain because tools and dies used to strike ornate patterns on silver didn’t work because steel is so hard. Tools and dies capable of mass-producing articulate, elaborate patterns on stainless steel were finally perfected in the 1960’s.

Today, because of durability, affordability, low maintenance and a broad range of patterns from traditional to contemporary,  stainless steel flatware has won universal acceptance.

Currently, stainless steel dominates U.S. flatware sales.  Brands available in U.S. retail stores are made in England, Germany, Italy, Japan and China.

Pewter:
Pewter is 92% tin alloyed with antimony and copper. Today’s silvery gray pewter contains no lead and is not toxic. Pewter doesn’t tarnish but it’s soft and can easily dent and scratch. Many current advertisements for pewter flatware describe cast  pewter handles—with knife blades, spoon bowls and fork tines of stainless steel .

Knife Handles:
Sterling silver,  silver plate, stainless steel and pewter flatware generally refers to spoons, forks, serving pieces and handles of knives: knife blades are usually stainless steel.

Consumers are cautioned to wash all flatware having handles of wood, mother-of-pearl, enamel, porcelain or colored stone (petra dura) by hand. Dishwashers proved unkind to the finish of the much-loved and colorful Bakelite handles of the 1920’s. However, some man-made composite materials have recently been developed to withstand the heat and pressure of a dishwasher.

Blades:
Blades for sterling, silver plate, stainless steel and pewter place-setting knives are acceptable because most of them are a good quality stainless steel alloy—but one that might not hold a sharp cutting edge. Therefore, many manufacturers use serrated stainless steel blades to compensate for the lack of sharpness.

Since 1990, the drop in global demand for sterling and silver-plate flatware has brought about mergers, buy-outs, factory closings and bankruptcies of many international flatware businesses.

Some manufacturers have diversified product lines by buying or merging with glassware and dinnerware companies and some have shown growth through the successful marketing of STAINLESS STEEL FLATWARE.

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF FLATWARE IS GOOD?
BY JUDGING FOR YOURSELF! 

Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

MY NEXT POST: DESIGN AND PRODUCTION OF FLATWARE 

                    

THE STORY OF FLATWARE©

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Knives?     Food was cut with sharpened rocks and shells.
Forks?       Food was speared with twigs.
Spoons?    Food was scooped with cupped hands.

Rocks, shells, twigs and cupped hands were serving utensils.
Our ancestors used fingers for eating.

Eating implements evolved over many millennia.  The Book of Hours provides a glimpse of 15th Century eating mannerisms and we see only knives used to cut pieces of game, held with the fingers.  Leather finger coverings were used to handle meats boiled in fat. Knives had very sharp points; it was centuries before they were rounded to prevent people from killing each other at table and stories of knives as conveyors of poison—apparently are true.

Horsemen and hunters carried two-pronged forks, a knife and sharpener. Traveling implements consisted of a handle with inserts for a blade and fork which fit into notches on the back of a small bowl-like spoon.

Historians claim Italians were the first to use forks — considered an excessive sign of refinement.  Catherine de Medici brought forks from Italy to France; for macaroni?  As tines increased from two to four—as our fingers—forks became more bowl-like.

Hosts did not supply eating utensils; dinner guests had to bring their own. The very wealthy used eating implements of gold and in descending order; silver, brass, bronze and iron. Silver coins were hammered into spoons, forks and knife handles — and often embellished with mother-of-pearl, enamel, porcelain and petra dura.

By the 18th Century, individual place setting knives, forks and spoons made of silver, resembled what we use today and call silverware — even when it’s made of stainless steel.  As culinary arts expanded, a repertoire of place setting and serving pieces evolved for each course as well as for specific foods.  Special knives and forks were designed so diners could debone their own fish; table appointments had become status symbols.

When did we begin to call knives, forks and spoons– flatware?
Probably when category labels were established for commercial classification purposes.

Silversmithing, brought to colonial America by English craftsmen, centered in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.  Artisan-made sterling flatware soon graced tables of the wealthy. By the mid-1800’s, many artisan businesses evolved into factories capable of mass-producing excellent quality sterling flatware.

Well known U.S.commercial producers were: Reed & Barton (1824),  Gorham (1831), Wallace (1833),  Kirk-Steiff  (1846), Towle (1857) and International Silver (1898).

The late 19th and early 20th Centuries introduced electricity,
radios, refrigerators, typewriters, telephones, steel mills,
automobiles and movies—which generated jobs, leisure time
and disposable income.  

Sterling flatware  began to grace ‘proper’ dining tables of the
middle-classes who used silver-plate for ‘everyday’. The U.S.
flatware industry was alive and well.

A post-WW I demographic shift to cities ended America’s agrarian economy. We welcomed the ’Roaring 20’s —  soon disillusioned by the Great Depression —then united by WW II. Prosperity followed with a proliferation of goods generated by educated GI’s, increased numbers of working women, suburbia and an explosion of baby-boomers.

The American Sterling Silversmiths Guild ran heavy promotions of sterling flatware for brides and also for baby gifts. By 1950, sterling silver flatware had become a staple on bridal registeries. Pre-teens poured endlessly over sterling flatware advertisements in SEVENTEEN MAGAZINE.

After all, a favorite sterling pattern guaranteed a gracious lifestyle!

But the 1960’s juxtaposed computer science, the Cold War, Civil Rights and Women’s Movements with hippies, an anti-establishment uniform of jeans and the ‘me’  generation. This dichotomy continued through the 70’s with Watergate, Vietnam, energy crises, inflation and much disillusion. Sterling flatware?  Scarcely a priority!

By the mid-1980’s, most of my FIT students had no desire to own sterling or silver-plate flatware. It was labor intensive to make and the students thought it was labor intensive to own. Pampering knives and forks didn’t ‘fit’ their planned lifestyle. How prophetic!

Since the U.S. government suspended silver bullion sales by the treasury in November 1961, silver prices fluctuated from a low of $1.29 a troy ounce to a high of $49.45.

The average price of a troy ounce of silver for the past five years:
2010:     $ 20.19 
2011:      $ 35.12  
2012:      $ 31.15    
2013:      $ 23.79 
2014:      $ 19.08
2016:      $ 14.56

Erratic rises and falls of the price of a troy ounce of silver are generated by global supply and demand for pure silver—not only for high-tech industrial applications but also for personal and government investment holdings.

Volatile retail price changes and continual lifestyle changes are largely responsible for declining consumer demand for sterling silver jewelry, flatware and hollow ware. Flatware manufacturers were most negatively affected: resulting in mergers, buy-outs, factory closings and bankruptcies.

On February 12, 2011 the New York Times reported:
“Spoons and forks, the metal flatware that everyone uses,are no longer made in the U.S.  The last factory in an industry stretching back to colonial times closed eight months ago in Sherrill, N.Y., a  small community in the foothills of the Adirondacks. 80 employees lost their jobs.”

The future of sterling flatware?

If you need to complete your sterling service, or want to purchase
new sterling flatware….read on….

Through licensing and acquisitions, patterns designed, manufactured and marketed by Gorham, Towle, Wallace, International Silver, and Kirk-Steiff  are currently made and marketed by Lifetime Brands Inc. in San German, Puerto Rico, an American Territory and sold in many U.S. retail stores.

FLATWARE TODAY?

With little exception, flatware of any metal sold in U.S. retail stores is imported. 

When I comparison shop diverse brands, metals and patterns of flatware in diverse stores, I find diverse countries of origin — and diverse quality.  Some is excellent, some good, some less-than-good. You must judge the quality for yourself and this series of posts will help you.

Flatware quality is determined by raw materials and production methods, not price. We still use our fingers but we’ve come a long way from using rocks, shells, twigs and cupped hands.

We need timeless, unbiased standards of quality for raw materials and production methods (e.g. walls of each fork tine must be polished) and labeling transparency. Information is power. 

Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

MY NEXT POST:  FLATWARE IN OUR LIVES

JUDGING THE QUALITY OF VINTAGE GLASSWARE©

If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF GLASSWARE, click on https://dearfriend.buzz/category/glassware/?order=asc

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 A  fiasco I could have avoided — had  I used my fingers:

In a well-established flea market in an old barn in Connecticut,
I chose six wine glasses with hand engraved birds in flight.
Although the light was dim, each glass appeared perfect until I
washed them at home.  The rim of every glass was rough: they
were probably stored up-side down on a rough surface!

I examined them visually in the barn’s dim light but didn’t run
my finger around the top of each glass.  When I had the rims filed
and polished, each glass shattered.

Venues for resale glass products can be daunting and you’re on your own in flea market, thrift shop, estate sale or charity bazaar.  Be sure to carry a magnifying glass to better read labels and examine each product for flaws. (I didn’t bring one to the Connecticut flea market). Selections are limited, prices erratic, original labeling is probably gone and other information is probably a ‘guesstimate’ of the seller.

How old is the glassware?
Age has no impact on glass quality so have no concern about the age of glass unless you’re buying it for antique value. All glass is vitreous and if there are no cracks, glass cannot hold bacteria. Room temperature glass can be washed in hot, soapy water.

Did you get an honest answer about the age of the glassware?
This is impossible to know unless the manufacturer and style is from a particular period.

How long does glassware last?
Glass vessels from 1,500 B.C. are on display in international museums, so it’s safe to say, until glassware is broken, it has no expiration date.

What kind of glass is it?  soda-glass?  lead crystal?
This is important to establish. Lead crystal is much more expensive than soda-glass unless the soda-glass has historical value. (A manufacturer’s name or brand or logo is sometimes etched on the bottom of glassware.)  Whether free —or mouth blown into a wood mold is not easily discerned—but if the item is expensive, check the Internet for information about the manufacturer even though they may no  longer be in business.

Mold marks diminish the value of all glassware except Colonial and Depression Glass—where mold marks help establish authenticity.

Never purchase a lead crystal decanter to store wine or liquor.
Lead leaches into standing spirits. 

Where was the glassware made?
Currently, almost every developed country produces good quality glassware and traditions of style and quality have made some international brand-name glassware more valuable. If labels remain on the glassware you’re interested in buying, information about the maker might be available on the Internet.    

Is weight significant?
Very thin and sheer glass, or very heavy glass, is a personal preference—but don’t confuse weight with strength. If glassware looks heavy, it should be heavy; if it looks light, it should be light.  Weight must be balanced and not top or bottom heavy, especially for stemware.

Is the clarity good —and the color uniform?
Examine glassware in good light for clarity and uniformity of color, even if it’s clear glass. Don’t be disturbed by minute bubbles, but inconsistent color, flecks (seeds), obvious bubbles, impurities or stria (variations caused by unequal density of ingredients or variations in furnace temperature) are not a sign of good quality. 

Is the glassware well-polished and finished?
Superior quality glassware has polished rims and also polished foot rims—even for soda-glass. Good quality finishing is done by hand—one-piece at a time—which increases the price of each glass. Even if glassware is not hand polished, all rims must be smooth and bases must not scratch table surfaces. Check with your fingertips as well as your eyes.

Glasses with a safedge (the edge is uniformally thicker than the wall of the glass) are mass-produced and because the rim does not require polishing by hand or machine, should be relatively inexpensive.  Safedge glasses are sturdy for everyday, especially for young children. Connoisseurs prefer not to drink wine from glasses with a safedge—and better restaurants do not use them. 

If glassware is decorated, determine if it’s a decal or hand-painted and heat-sealed.
If hand painted designs –or decals of color or gold –have begun to wear,  assume the glassware was washed in a dishwasher. Pass. Even if the design is heat-sealed, decorations last longer if washed by hand.  

Don’t believe everything a seller tells you about glass products:
Many people confuse pressed glass with cut glass and engraved glass with etched glass. They look similar but their production techniques and market value are very different. 

Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

MY NEXT POST IS:  THE STORY OF FLATWARE

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THE QUALITY OF GLASSWARE IS GOOD?©

 

If you prefer to begin with THE STORY OF GLASSWARE, click on https://dearfriend.buzz/category/glassware/?order=asc

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QUALITY DENOMINATORS OF GLASSWARE:

IDENTIFY THE RAW MATERIALS:
Know if the glass is soda-lime, borosilicate or lead crystal (the most expensive).

If it is lead crystal,  check for the lead percentage — which should be on the label or available from the retailer. If answers are unsatisfactory and/or questionable, don’t hesitate to contact the brand manufacturer.

PRODUCTION METHODS:
Mouth or machine? Mouth-blown or free-blown soda-lime or lead crystal glassware does not have mold marks.  Mold marks are a sign of pressed or molded machine-made glass. If not too visible, mold marks are not objectionable — but the price of the glassware should be relatively low because of little or no hand-labor for polishing.

No visible mold marks on machine-made glassware means the manufacturer has ground them away and then polished the surface by hand or machine — which adds to the price.

FINALLY:
Examine each of the following elements of finished glassware and  judge for yourself if standards of production quality have been well executed.

Rims:
Rims must be smooth, polished and of uniform thickness with the walls of the glass. Glass walls may range from very thin to rather heavy depending upon the style. Lead crystal glasses will always feel heavier and be relatively thick.  Choice of weight and wall thickness is personal. Wine connoisseurs prefer a polished, thin rim to better direct the flow of wine and enhance the complexity of a fine wine.desktop safeedge

An exception to uniform thickness of walls and rims are glasses made with a safedge–-made by passing the open cut edge of a glass under a flame until the edge quivers and melts into a rounded, thicker rim.  

Glasses with safedges should be inexpensive because they don’t require polishing. Safedge glasses are more durable for children and everyday use; they’re not preferred for fine glassware.   All glasses should be stored upright to protect their rims.

Bases:
Glasses must sit firmly and feel balanced.  Check the bottoms of all glass products to make sure the ‘sitting’ edge of each will not scratch your table.  Grinding and polishing glass ‘bottoms’ by hand or machine is labor intensive —but expected if purchasing better mouth-blown glasses. Unpolished glass bottoms are acceptable if smooth to your touch–but should cost less.

Clarity:
Minute bubbles signify glassware is free-blown—and they’re acceptable.  But glassware must not have flecks (seeds), obvious bubbles, impurities or stria  (variations in glass caused by unequal density of ingredients or variations in furnace temperature). Better quality manufacturers destroy production having any of these defects.

Moderately priced, heavy,  mouth-blown glassware made in Mexico — from recycled glass —is currently popular. It’s full of tiny bubbles that give it a hand-crafted charm.

Color:
Whether free-blown or machine-made, colored glass must have uniform pigmentation whether transparent, translucent or opaque.  Lack of uniform pigmentation indicates that the silica and other ingredients had not been brought to proper fusion temperature in the glass furnace.

Weight:
Don’t confuse weight with strength. If a glass product looks heavy, it should be heavy. If a glass product looks light, it should be light.  Weight must be balanced and not top or bottom heavy, especially stemware.

Stems:
If you are buying good stemware, be sure all joinings of bowl to stem to base —are invisible.

Care:
1.  Glassware should be *room-temperature when washed in warm, soapy water.

2.  Take special care rims do not touch each other.
3.  Wash cut lead crystal stemware by hand because swishing hot water and dishwasher detergents eventually build-up a milky residue.
4.  Dry with lint-free cloths.
5.  Store glasses right-side-up to protect rims from rough surfaces.

I can’t forget the customer who brought a box of crystal
shards to the Gift Gallery and asked for me. She had
purchased an expensive silver champagne stand with a
heavily-cut lead-crystal ice bucket trimmed with silver.
After her party, she emptied the ice and plunged the *cold,
crystal ice bucket into hot soapy water:—IT EXPLODED!   

There are considerations in caring for all products but the
manufacturer had not provided care instructions for the

crystal ice bucket: it was NOT the customer’s fault!  

Relieved no one had been hurt, I credited her account but
never 
carried the item again.

 Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

MY NEXT POST: VINTAGE GLASSWARE

DRINKWARE: STEMWARE and TUMBLERS©

glassware header

 STEMWARE

3 wine glasses - Shortcut.lnk

Glasses having a bowl and foot—separated by a stem—are called stemware. Stems can be short, tall, plain, faceted, colored or embellished; some stems are shaped to encase an ornamental tear-drop bubble of air.

Stems are designed for holding—so one’s hand temperature won’t affect the temperature of wine or other beverages to be sipped from the bowl. Therefore, stems must be sturdy.

Stems can be shaped from a separate gather of molten glass and then stuck to the bowl and foot while each part is still hot— or stems can be drawn (or pulled) from the gather of molten glass from which the bowl is shaped — then attached to the foot while all parts are still hot. Stuck or drawn, seamless attachment of stems to both bowl and foot is an indication of good quality.

 STEMWARE SHAPES AND SIZES:

Round, straight or flared bowls of stemware are made to please all preferences. Glass producers usually market suites for each shape in sizes suitable for each beverage. Approximate capacity:
water:               12 to 17 oz
champagne:     6 to   8 oz
brandy:              2 to 25 oz
cocktail:             4 to   9 oz.
cordial:               2 oz.
wine:                   Capacity varies according to each varietal.

WINE GLASSES:

My brother gifted me with wine tasting classes at NYC’s Four Seasons restaurant. Our instructors were well-known, international wine experts. Before our ‘first tasting’—they emphasized how the size and shape of a glass changes one’s taste and perception of different varietals.

To prove this, we were given different sizes and shapes of stemware for tasting different red and white varietals — including sparkling wines. We were quickly convinced of the difference and importance of using correct glasses for ultimate enjoyment of each wine.

Storage for a variety of wine glasses is a problem
for many of us but ‘all-purpose’ wine glasses are
not a solution;  I consider them ‘marketing spin’.

CHARACTERISTICS OF GOOD WINE GLASSES :

  • A sheer transparency to enjoy the color of the wine
  • A fine polished thin lip for aesthetic pleasure
  • A sturdy stem for holding
  • A secure base for proper stability
  • A rounded bowl with thin lips and poured only 1/3 full— to allow the wine to be properly swirled in order to capture the bouquet and examine the ‘legs’ of the wine. Our instructors felt Americans ‘over pour’  wine because they don’t want to appear cheap.

Regarding shapes:
George Riedel of the renowned Austrian glass company writes: 
“Every shape is especially engineered  to shape the flow of the wine into the mouth, delivering it to a precise part of the tongue in order to give specific sensations—the shape not only changes the taste of the wine, it shows different elements of the bouquet.”

There are shapes and sizes of both lead-crystal and soda-glass stemware to please all tastes at all prices. Most manufacturers produce table-setting suites with glasses for water, different varietals of red and white wine and for dessert or fruit. Other popular shapes are usually available in a broad range of sizes.

Despite marketing pressure to buy glasses of the same suite,
water goblets and wine glasses don’t have to match;

In fact, cocktail, martini, and champagne glasses seldom match
table stemware. Mixing stemware shapes and styles —depending
upon each beverage—creates more interesting table settings!

Stemmed glasses with saucer shaped bowls were originally made for champagne. Today, saucer shape is suggested for fruit and ice cream;  flute shaped glasses better contain and maintain champagne bubbles.

2 champagne glasses

Changing all table settings in the Gift Gallery every two weeks was great fun.I was able to choose linens, dishes, glasses, flatware and accessories from our international collections.

When I saw very tall and very purple stemware cased with white in a New York showroom, I envisioned striking table settings— and ordered them in every size.

venice for blog 15.MHT (2)

The distinguished importer suggested—very politely—that I order the purple glasses for water and dessert only and order all wine sizes of the same shape in clear glass—to better savor the color and clarity of the wine.

Customers loved the purple glasses:
even more, they loved that everything didn’t match!

TUMBLERS

venice for blog 16.MHT (2)

Glasses without stems are tumblers. It’s suggested the name came from glasses made with a convex base —to force glasses to be emptied before being set on a table—when of course, they’d tumble.

Capacity of basic tumblers:
Hi-ball or water :                12 to 18 oz.
Old-fashioned or juice :     7 to 12 oz.
Double old -fashioned:     12 to 16 oz.
Pilsners:                                17 oz.

From aperitifs to cordials, glasses for red wine, white wine, rose‘, champagne, sherry, martinis, manhattans,  whiskey sours,  margaritas,  cosmopolitans, piña coladas, Campari, Kir, ouzo, et cetera are designed to enhance the pleasure of each of these traditional, international wines, spirits and mixed drinks. However, specific shapes and sizes of glasses for serving specific drinks may differ from country to country—restaurant to restaurant.

Brandy drinkers sniff  brandy and snifters come in all sizes. Some beer drinkers like to drink from the bottle but beer mugs and pilsner glasses turn beer into a special occasion. The tradition of green stemmed glasses for Rhine wine prevails centuries after they were made to detract from a ‘greenish wine’ due to incorrect mixing of grapes; but why not use their unique size and shape for cocktails?  

Before drinking, we raise our glass and offer cheers!
au votre santé! bottoms’ up!, tchin tchin!,  Prosit!,
Skål!, Salute!;  then—‘clink’ our filled glasses in
fellowship.

Glasses for specific drinks are available from molded soda-glass to mouth-blown soda-glass and mouth-blown lead crystal, which cost the most and ‘clink’  the clearest.  Paper and plastic glasses don’t ‘clink’.

WHICH DO YOU BUY?
There’s plenty of tradition: no rules.

  1. Are you likely to entertain formally or informally?
  2. How important is it for you to have the ‘correct’ glass for each drink?
  3. Assess your storage space.
  4. Plan what you can spend and choose two to four ‘drinks’ you commonly serve (e.g. red wine, white wine, beer, champagne).  Select glasses you like and can easily replace.
  5. Want more?   Try stemware with wiggly stems—in funky colors—and start a trend!

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 Have fun.

 Pat Breen: EYEWITNESS TO QUALITY

My next post: JUDGING THE QUALITY OF GLASSWARE