Review is not paid, we get no bonuses, Liberty Tabletop doesn’t know we exist.
As we noted before, we had been using the same set of cheap silverware since we were in graduate school. One day while having my spoon bend eating ice cream out of a pint, I decided I had had enough. I am middle-aged, I told myself. We are professionals with a healthy retirement account, I said. Even if DH is going to be taking some time off, we can still afford to get grown-up silverware. (And to be perfectly honest, getting grown-up silverware has been in the back of my mind since we visited the in-laws last Christmas and I marveled at the heft of their cutlery.)
It turns out that buying fancy new cutlery has become more difficult in the past few years. Oneida and Lenox have moved their operations overseas and it is clear from looking at reviews (even on Oneida’s own webpage) that quality control has slipped considerably in the past few years. Old sets are still going strong, but new sets are not always what they claim to be– complaints about rusting and magnetism show up with unnerving frequency on recent reviews for pretty much all silverware manufactured in Vietnam, Indonesia, or China. Mind you, not all modern sets are bad– it seems to be a problem with quality control, not average quality. Basically, manufacturers are not paying attention so you might get a dud set made with worse quality steel than advertised. Or, according to one complaint, slightly different patterns across the set when half the set is made in Vietnam and the other half in Indonesia. Prices for 18/10 silverware are a lot lower now than I remember them being as well, so it seems like in equilibrium the market is now willing to take its chances. We live in a disposable culture.
What makes quality in stainless steel silverware? Basically you want steel that is 18/10. Our original set was 18/0. 18/10 steel won’t rust and it isn’t magnetic (maybe… see below). And you want a pattern you like and a nice heft. Serrated knives will be an exception– the blades cannot be 18/10 and still do a decent job of cutting, but the handles should still be 18/10 if they’re made in two pieces.
So what are your options? Ikea seemed to have pretty reasonable reviews but we weren’t that crazy about their limited style choices when we bought a basic set for four for use last year in Paradise (we left them in Paradise). Henkels also seemed to be getting pretty consistently good reviews, though people complained about the cutlery being too big which is our main problem with Ikea flatware. So… we kept looking and noticed that the old Oneida plant in the US now houses the US’s only manufacturer of flatware, Liberty Tabletop. They seemed to have good reviews and they let you pay $8 to test out 3 different designs (or $16 for 6 different) before you commit, and they also had one of my favorite designs (the Martha Washington with the little flowers– my other favorite is the Japanese star design which seems to only be available used on ebay) so we thought we’d give it a whirl.
We tried out 3 of their designs, the Martha Washington, the Champlin, and the Sheffield. They sent a full-sized Martha Washington and salad forks for the other two designs. We thought the Sheffield was a bit gaudy, liked the Champlin more than we’d thought and the Martha Washington not quite as much– the design is not quite as crisp as in their picture. But after some discussion, we decided this was our best bet and ordered a 65 piece set for $359 (and a 10% discount because they frequently run 10% discounts if you look for a code… right now it is EASTER10) as well as four long-necked iced tea spoons (~$35).
The flower on the base is not completely consistent across all pieces– some are more well-defined than others, I assume because that part is hardest to stamp. But that’s only something a person notices if they’re specifically looking for it. The rest of each piece seems perfect. They’ve got a nice heft, ice cream no longer requires straightening out a spoon after, they stack nicely in the drawer which my OCD loves, and they have yet to rust in the dishwasher.
We were pretty happy with our purchase. Then we decided to do the “magnet test” that liberty tabletop (and many other pages not trying to sell things recommend) on their website.
All the forks passed with flying colors (unlike our old forks which would fly to the magnet). As would be predicted, the knife blades were magnetic but the handles were not. The slotted spoon that came with the set also had no magnetic draw. But all of the other spoons were magnetic, although less so than our original set, with the bowls more attracted than the handles. But the spoon handles could still be lifted with a magnet.
So we wrote to the company.
I received the order and am very pleased about the design, appearance, and heft of the flatware.
Unfortunately, the teaspoons (12), iced tea spoons (4), sugar spoon (1), and serving spoon (1) are all significantly magnetic.
According to your website: “If you can lift the spoon or fork with a magnet then it is likely 18-0 or some lower grade of stainless steel.” http://libertytabletop.com/18-10-stainless-steel/
Using a magnet, I can lift all of the items that I listed above.
Thank you for your purchase of our Made in the USA flatware.
All of our flatware is made from 18/10 stainless steel, with the exception of the knife blades.
When you cold work stainless steel, such as we do to raise the bowl of the spoons, it will become slightly magnetic. Of course “slightly” would depend on the power of the magnet that you are using. If you use the magnet on the rest of the flatware, or the handles of the spoons, you should find them to be non-magnetic. Please let me know if this is not the case.
But the magnet does work on the handles of the spoons (DH sent the pictures you see above as proof):
Previously I had been testing out the bowls on the spoons, so I went back and tested their handles instead. I can lift them with a rare earth magnet to an angle of about 45 degrees before they fall.
A standard fridge magnet will not lift them, but is attracted to them from handle to bowl.
In comparison, the slotted serving spoon does not attract the rare earth magnet.
The more work hardening, the more magnetic. Therefore, the lowest part in the spoon bowl will be magnetic. With slotted spoons, that portion of the bowl is cut out, so you won’t see the same reaction to a magnet
So based on the manufacturing/shaping process, spots of 18/10 can become magnetic.
The bowls of the spoons in my set are the most magnetic, but other areas are also magnetic.
Is it typical that a standard fridge magnet is attracted to the handles of the spoons in my set?…as long as the attraction is not strong enough to lift the spoon up by the handle?
That is not atypical for work hardened 18/10.
DH’s brother, who is a mechanical engineer who works on engines says that work hardening does cause magnetism (which is a problem for them– they have to demagnetize things in order to get rid of scrapes and fillings of metal when they clean a newly manufactured engine), and it seems more reasonable that the magnetism from work hardening the bowls has made the handles magnetic too than that Liberty Tabletop only used impure steel for their spoons and not their other cutlery.
So should you trust Liberty Tabletop? I don’t know. If we hadn’t done this check on our spoon handles, I’d be feeling perfectly happy. But on their website they have scary blurbs about how magnetic handles can mean dangerous impurities introduced from using recycled steel (which they say they don’t use)… if I hadn’t read those blurbs, I would also be feeling more sanguine about having magnetic handles on my spoons. If the company itself is the main cause of the paranoia, it seems like something’s a bit off. And without that worry, our new silverware does “spark joy” during regular use or all neatly stacked in our silverware drawer.
What do you think?