For homemakers, when it comes to fine kitchen flatware, such as forks, knives and spoons, Solingen flatware is high up on the desirability scale. Named for the city that originally was the home of German sword making, Solingen itself isn't a company name. Rather, it's the title given to any flatware coming out of a number of manufacturers located within the city. In the 21st century, the basis of fine Solingen flatware is its high quality stainless steel.
Solingen itself is a German city located in North Rhine-Westphalia. The city has an historic sword and knife-making lineage that dates back to the 13th century. Cutlery-wise, fine Solingen-made products came to local prominence in 1571, when a cutlers' guild was first mentioned in the city's historical records. Since then, many makers of fine cutlery and flatware have called the city home through the 21st century.
Solingen-stamped steel flatware comprising knives, forks and spoons of all sizes, has been around since 1672. Solingen-specific steel making processes also have a very long history. Local 16th century craftsmen in Solingen perfected hand-forging processes that made their cutlery known throughout Europe. Since then, Solingen flatware has become more appreciated than ever. Originally made from standard steel that was susceptible to corrosion, its metal composition was finally stabilized around 1915, when stainless steel was first widely made.
Cutlery and flatware makers in Solingen were quick to recognize the benefits of stainless steel. Soon after it was perfected for manufacturing, they began turning out extremely high quality flatware sets. Antique collections can be worth several thousand dollars or more, depending on condition. Modern day knife, fork and spoon sets are made using quality stainless steel with a wide variety of etched patterns on their handles. In addition, sliver and gold-plated sets also can be found.
All Solingen flatware, regardless of individual maker, will be stamped "Solingen, Germany." Expect to find the stamping on the blades of the knives and on the undersides of the handles of spoons and forks. All also will display the name and possibly the logo of the specific maker of the flatware. In addition, it may bear an "18/10" stamp, denoting the percentages of chromium and nickel within the flatware's stainless steel. That means it's of very high quality.