Stainless Steel Flatware Grades

Learn the Difference Between 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0 Flatware

Stainless steel flatware in wooden organizer tray closeup

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

The numbers 18/10, 18/8, and 18/0 pertaining to stainless steel flatware do not designate the same quality and vary considerably in price and composition. At first glance on the flatware packaging, it may look like 18/10, but a closer inspection may reveal that it is actually only 18/0 flatware.

This type of flatware information can be very deceiving, and it's no wonder the price seems so good. It's actually a marketing ploy and if these flatware specs are missing altogether, this product may not really be stainless steel at all. If you're in the market for flatware, be sure you understand the stainless flatware differences and what they mean.

Stainless Steel Flatware Composition

The Stainless steel used in flatware is a composite of various steels and varies in terms of quality grades for different uses. The main ingredients in flatware are chromium and nickel which are added to provide a resistance to corrosion.

That makes everyday cutlery easy to care for and for the most part, it has some amount of resistance when it comes to pitting or rusting. These differences in specifications are often denoted on the packaging but often are missed when shopping for stainless steel cutlery.

Specs and Quality

Stainless flatware that is 18/10 means that 18 percent is chromium and 10 percent is nickel. The higher the nickel content, the more protection the flatware has from corrosion. The prices of stainless steel flatware vary considerably depending on these specs and quality, so don’t be fooled into thinking you are buying the best quality if the nickel content is 0 percent.

However, some flatware manufacturers will label cutlery with a slightly higher than 8 percent nickel content, such as 8.3 percent as 18/10, since it doesn’t quite fit in the 18/8 category, and this labeling is totally allowable, but a little deceiving, none the less.

It should be noted that even the best stainless steel flatware is subject to occasional pitting and corrosion if not properly cared for. Dishwasher detergents tend to be harsh to stainless steel flatware and that can sometimes cause blemishes. These can often be removed with a stainless steel cleaner, but pitting, chipping, or rusting sometimes cannot be removed.

Shopping Tips

When shopping, take the time to open the flatware package and handle a utensil. An 18/10 spoon has a great "feel" in your hand, somewhat heavy but well-balanced and the stainless is gleaming. It should look very elegant. Such quality flatware is definitely worth paying the higher price.

Give some thought to how many flatware servings to buy so you will have a set that meets your immediate and future needs. Quality flatware is sometimes available in sets and also individually with open stock availability. This should be confirmed if you intend on growing your set over time.

Signs of low-quality stainless are rough edges, lack of luster, lightweight, and lacking balance when handled. These would also probably have no stainless specifications to confirm metal details. You can still use such flatware and it might be ideal for starter cutlery and you can upgrade as your budget allows.

And last, check the flatware packaging for other product information, especially international or national standards, to ensure this flatware product meets acceptable standards for your area.