Best Flatware Not Made in China

Best Flatware Not Made in China

How to kill an industry

First, to get it out of the way, we say “flatware” in the United States we’re talking about forks, spoons, and other silverware that goes into a table setting. In other countries, this is referred to as “cutlery”, but in the US that term only refers to knives. So if you’re looking for a fork or a spoon or a butter knife, you’re at the right place.

Flatware is one of those industries that in a perfect world it makes total sense to offshore: it’s a product that’s commoditized and has a relatively cheap price point. And as long as companies seek out countries that are honest about their business practices and have a government that isn’t corrupt and seeks for the best for its local communities over its own power, then outsourcing can be a great thing.

However, if you look through Amazon product listings for Mikasa, Oneida, Lenox, Zwilling JA Henckels, Pfaltzgraff you’ll see (by reading customer reviews) that practically all of them outsource to China. Apparently some of them do, from time to time, switch to other countries like Vietnam or Indonesia, but somehow all roads seem to go back to China.

You’ll notice something else on Amazon. Search for “flatware” and you’ll see brands like PHILIPALA, LIANYU, DANIALLI, Acnusik and other gibberish names ranking at the top, complete with thousands of fake 5-star reviews that Amazon has no intention of policing. You’ll notice that a lot of these “brands” have patterns and materials that closely resemble the famous brands. This is because unlike countries like Vietnam and Indonesia that respect intellectual property laws, companies in China will not think twice about copying a product (sometimes literally running it from the same production line), creating a shell brand (complete with a fake Web site and fake reviews), and cutting out the American middleman by selling direct to consumers. They’re even getting savvy by pricing their flatware sets at premium prices, knowing that a portion of the American consumer automatically assumes that “expensive is better”.

I’ve literally gone through hundreds of flatware sets from all the big brands and can’t find one that consistently avoids China, even among vaunted brands like Lenox, Mikasa, and Pfaltzgraff. It seems that corporate greed knows no borders.

Is there any flatware still made in the USA?

Believe it or not, yes. Today you still see the name Oneida on flatware, but they are Oneida in name only. The “real” Oneida that was founded in Oneida, NY in 1880 and grew to become the world’s largest flatware producer is no longer around, at least not in any meaningful way . They filed for bankruptcy in 2006, were passed around between a bunch of hedge fund managers and private equity groups who kept the brand name alive but all but gutted anything that made them unique.

Oneida had been headquartered in Sherrill, NY. In 2004, Oneida announced that it was shutting down its last manufacturing plant in the United States. In a bold move, two former Oneida employees, Gregory Owens and Matthew Roberts, bought the factory for $1 million. Just as Oneida shared a name with the town it was headquartered in, so did Sherrill Manufacturing.

For a while they tried to compete head-to-head with other flatware manufacturers, but they struggled and had to declare bankruptcy in 2010. But in a brilliant move, they decided to start selling direct to consumers under the Liberty Tabletop brand. They have their own Web site, and also sell through Amazon and other retailers.

In a bit of sleaziness, there were 11 flatware companies in 2016 that were listed on the GSA Website that claimed they were made in the US, but were made overseas. Happily, this has since been corrected, and Sherrill Manufacturing is now the only flatware maker recognized as made in the USA.

Bottom line, when you buy a Liberty Tabletop flatware set, you are essentially buying a “real” Oneida set, not a cheap one that has the Oneida name stamped on it but otherwise has none of Oneida’s “soul”.

Is flatware not made in China safe?

There’s a lot of debate about this around the Internet. The truth is, as with many things in China it’s a gamble. With higher end brands they’ll probably do more quality control (although at some point they need to trust their suppliers with a handshake). There are reports of material reports being forged–but companies looking to maximize profits may look the other way. It’s also widely reported that the quality of stainless steel falls well behind the true 18/10 quality stainless you’ll find in Europe and the US which can result in premature rusting. Finally, it’s been well documented (albeit swept under the run) that factories in China can be lax in their safety standards in the use of certain chemicals like TCE as well as questionable quality of the raw materials in making the steel, such as scrap iron.

About the list

This was a hard one to put together. At first I wanted to find more sets from the “big brands”, but found that it’s not uncommon for them to move their manufacturing from country to country, even on individual designs. So you can see instances were one Amazon reviewer says their box says “made in Vietnam” while another’s will say “made in China”. I’ve gone through hundreds of product listings from the “big brands” but it seems that all of them have gone through China at some point.

I looked at other retailers, but most of them were coy about the country of manufacture (hint: if it says “imported”, you pretty much know where it came from).

There were two notable exceptions: Williams-Sonoma and Crate & Barrel, both of whom on their product pages was extremely clear. I’ve highlighted some of the best-selling flatware sets from both of them below.

1. Annapolis by Liberty Tabletop – Best Overall

There’s not a lot to find wrong with this set (and the near-perfect ratings on Amazon corroborate this). It’s one of Liberty Treetop’s top-selling lines, produced using the highest quality raw materials sourced in the United States and made using the same exacting manufacturing processes and equipment that produced the best US-made Oneida flatware for years.

Unlike manufacturers in China, they don’t use toxic chemicals, oils, and lubes in their processes, making life good for their employees, and good for the environment of their upstate New York community.

If “Annapolis” is not the right pattern for you, they have many more to choose from, all produced with the same high quality.

Pros

  • NOT made in China
  • Top quality 18/10 stainless steel, sourced from the United States
  • Solidly built
  • Well balanced, sturdy
  • Produced without dangerous chemicals or inhumane working conditions
  • Dishwasher-safe

Cons

  • Limited patterns
  • Be prepared to pay a slight premium (knowing that you’re supporting a great company)

2. Betsy Ross by Liberty Tabletop



This is another line that’s very popular. Recently, Wirecutter named it among one of the best that they reviewed. I was happy to see Wirecutter recognizing the “soul” of Oneida that’s infused into each of these utensils.

Pros

  • NOT made in China
  • Top quality 18/10 stainless steel, sourced from the United States
  • Solidly built
  • Well balanced, sturdy
  • Produced without dangerous chemicals or inhumane working conditions
  • Dishwasher-safe

Cons

  • Limited patterns
  • Be prepared to pay a slight premium (knowing that you’re supporting a great company)

3. Caesna Mirror Flatware Set by Robert Welch for Crate & Barrel

If none of the Liberty Tabletop patterns work for you, another nice source is Crate & Barrel. Unlike Amazon’s site, Crate & Barrel very clearly marks the country of origin for any given set. For that alone, they deserve a closer look (because if you haven’t figured it out by now, Amazon hides this information very deliberately).

Of all the sets they sell, this set by English designer Robert Welch has by far the most reviews; as of this writing there are 1,077 reviews, which is five times more than any other set. Even more impressive is that the review average is 4.8 out of 5 stars. People love this set because of its clean lines, satin finish, and nice balance and weight. Crate & Barrel also has other highly-reviewed flatware sets designed by Robert Welch, including their Foster satin, Stanton satin, and Iona mirror lines.

Williams-Sonoma also has a number of Robert Welch patterns with similarly rave reviews, including WestburyKinghamWhitbyFlute, and Aaron.

Regardless of whether you buy from Crate & Barrel or Williams-Sonoma, these lines are all made in Vietnam.

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Pros

  • NOT made in China
  • 18/10 stainless steel
  • Dishwasher-safe
  • Good balance and weight

Cons

  • Limited data on working conditions in Vietnam

4. Boulder Flatware Set

This is another highly-reviewed and rated item on Crate & Barrel. This set is forged from 18/8 stainless steel with stylish heads and round hammered handles. They have a unique and beautiful contemporary design and are also sturdy. They’re also made in Vietnam.

5. Scoop Flatware Place Set

This is yet another another highly-reviewed and rated item on Crate & Barrel and my personal favorite. This set uses 18/10 stainless steel with stylish heads and has a mirrored finish and a lovely dimpled handle. It’s appropriate for both formal and casual settings, and it too is made in Vietnam.

Of course, you should look through all of Crate & Barrel’s catalog, as there are many other designs that are highly rated and you’ll be sure to find a great not-made-in-China option that suits your tastes. The Grand Hotel II has a familiar, classic design and is made in Vietnam. The Aero Black has an ultra-modern European style and is made in Portugal. Uptown has pencil-thin handles that are a pleasure to hold.

6. Fortessa Royal Pacific Flatware Set by Williams-Sonoma

Another great alternative to Amazon is Williams-Sonoma, who like Crate & Barrel clearly mark the country of origin of most of their products. I was surprised to see that the vast majority of sets at Williams-Sonoma came from Vietnam (13), Indonesia (10), France (10), Italy (7) and India (3), with only a handful (4) from China.

This is a unique design for Williams-Sonoma, forged by a manufacturer in Indonesia. It has a unique bamboo-like design and 18/10 stainless steel. I especially like the way the bamboo pattern is stylish but also lends some weight to all the pieces.

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Pros

  • NOT made in China
  • 18/10 stainless steel
  • Nice weight and polished finish

Cons

  • Limited data on working conditions in Indonesia

7. Mepra Vintage Roma Flatware Sets by Williams-Sonoma

These antiqued-pewter finish utensils were crafted in Italy by a family-owned company that’s been around for more than four generations. It’s made of 18/10 stainless steel with a high percentage of chrome for strength.

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Pros

  • NOT made in China
  • 18/10 stainless steel with a high percentage of chrome/li>
  • Dishwasher safe
  • Made in Italy

Cons

  • None

8. Laguiole 28-Piece Flatware Set, Wood

We’re getting into the “okay, this is a bit ridiculous” realm, but this 28-piece flatware set comes from France’s Laguiole region which is famous for their expertly crafted knives. The designs follow the same profile that Laguiole en Aubrac has been making since 1829, and shows off six different hardwoods harvested in France (olivewood, juniper wood, prune wood, applewood, boxwood, and walnut). And speaking of ridiculous, spend a few hundred more dollars and you can get the handless made out of polished animal horns.

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Pros

  • NOT made in China
  • Made by the same experts where the most famous French knives are forged

Cons

  • Expensive

9. Christofle Essential 24-Piece Stainless Steel Flatware Set

Here’s another pricey option that’s made in France. Christofle is a silversmith and tableware company founded in 1830 in France. You’ll find their shops in the fanciest shopping districts and stores. If you’re looking for high-end flatware, look at other Christofle designs to find one that fits your style and your budget.

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Pros

  • NOT made in China
  • Premium tableware made in France

Cons

  • Expensive

Do you know of other flatware sets not made in China worthy of mention here? Let us know in the comments!

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