Frequently Asked Questions
What are some of the factors in determining the price of stainless flatware?
Some of these include:
How does the design of the pattern influence the price?
- The design of the pattern
- The type of steel used
- The weight and gauge of the steel
- The attention to details
- The skill of the designer
- The marketing intent of the company
The cost of producing a pattern is not only determined by the raw material cost, but also the development and production of the pieces. Some patterns require many hours of tool work to render the artist's design into an actual piece.
Once a concept has been approved and the artist's drawings completed, sample pieces are produced. Because of Ginkgo's commitment to quality, rigorous inspection standards are set. This inspection process occasionally makes it difficult to produce a product to our level of excellence. We must then go back to the drawing board and make corrections in order to produce a perfect piece.
What is the difference in steel? Aren't all stainless pieces the same?
In metallurgy, stainless steel is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 11.5% chromium content by mass. Stainless steel does not stain, corrode or rust as easily as ordinary steel (it "stains less"), but it is not stain-proof. As an example, mayonnaise left on a knife blade in the sink seems to stain the blade a darker color. There are different grades and surface finishes of stainless steel to suit the environment to which the material will be subjected in its lifetime. Common uses of stainless steel are cutlery and watch straps.
Stainless steel differs from carbon steel by amount of chromium present. Carbon steel rusts when exposed to air and moisture. This iron oxide film is active and accelerates corrosion by forming more iron oxide. Stainless steels have sufficient amount of chromium present so that a passive film of chromium oxide forms which prevents further corrosion.
Stainless steel’s resistance to corrosion and staining, low maintenance, relative inexpense, and familiar luster make it an ideal base material for a host of commercial applications. There are over 150 grades of stainless steel, of which fifteen are most common.
There are different types of stainless steels: when nickel is added, for instance, the austenite structure of iron is stabilized. This crystal structure makes such steels non-magnetic and less brittle at low temperatures. For greater hardness and strength, carbon is added. When subjected to adequate heat treatment, these steels are used as razor blades, cutlery, flatware, etc.
A typical composition of 18% chromium and 8% nickel, commonly known as 18/8 stainless, is often used in flatware. 18/8 has approximately 18% chromium, and from 8-10 percent nickel. The nomenclature 18/8, and 18/10 are sometimes both used to represent the same type steel.
18/0 has 18 percent chromium, and no nickel. This common steel is often used in flatware sets as it combines the stain resistant elements of 18/8 at a lower cost. In recent years the price of nickel has increased by ten fold.
Whenever a fine cutting edge is required, as in the knife blades of your new stainless from GINKGO Int'l, Ltd., the blade is made from 13% chrome steel, and then tempered. The 13% chrome tempered blades can be re-sharpened, are flexible, and have a "memory" - they snap back into their original shape after being bent. However, they have less chromium, so are a bit more prone to oxidation (rust) and water spots.
How important are weight and gauge in determining the price and value of the piece?
This is a difficult question because better stainless companies such as Ginkgo International, Ltd. always use the proper weight and gauge of steel to properly execute the designer's intention. So this is not our major focus. Our pieces do tend to have more weight and a heavier gauge than other companies', but this is because of the designs. In addition to the gauge of the steel, we focus on the execution of the design features.
Companies trying to reach the lowest possible price points, of course, focus on the material used. If they can use 13 chrome steel and a light gauge of steel, costs of a pattern can be significantly reduced. However, if a piece is easily bendable, you may want to consider paying a little more for better quality and better long term value.
When you own a pattern by Ginkgo, not only will you be proud of your flatware, you'll have a product that gives a lifetime of beauty and durability.
What details influence the value of my flatware choice?
As in any product, the greater your expertise in choosing, the greater your satisfaction with the product will be. First, choose a pattern that appeals to you – one that strikes you! Hold it in your hand. Does if feel comfortable? Is the weight pleasing? Are the spoon bowls large enough?
Now inspect the piece carefully. Is it marked 18/8 or 18/10? There marks will ensure long lasting beauty. Do the spoon bowls taper to thinner edges at the tips? Many less expensive patterns are not “rolled” or “graded”. This results in poorly balanced pieces that are the same thickness at the ends as they are at the base of the bowls. Look between the tines of the forks, these should be finished to prevent burrs and rough edges. Tines should also taper to a point and have soft edges. The elevation of the tines and bowls should be consistent and not vary from piece to piece.
If you are using the stainless for entertaining, you may want a pattern with larger pieces as you will probably be using 10” or larger plates. You should ask yourself: Are the knives long enough? Do they have sufficient heft? If they are serrated, is the serration fine enough? With the knife on the right side of the plate, and the blade facing the plate, the serrations should be on the reverse side so that they are hardly noticeable. This prevents you from cutting into your plate, and it is more aesthetically pleasing. Ginkgo steak knives are serrated, but for the most part, we prefer to temper the blades of the dinner knives and put a fine edge on them. You should be able to judge the finish for yourself. A bright mirror finish should not have any pits or scuffmarks, and should be uniform and pleasing. A brushed or bead-blasted finish should be judged on it's uniformity and pleasing aspects to the eye. All finishes will show abrasions over time. This is natural, and a beautiful patina will develop with normal usage.
If I'm pleased with the look of a pattern, why should I be concerned with the skill and expertise of the designer?
The designer pays attention to details you may never be aware of. Yet there is a certain something that just makes a piece look and feel right. Ginkgo, along with their designers, start with the conception of a pattern. The designer will present many drawings that will eventually evolve into a single design of what we feel is right. The models are then made from nickel silver, sterling, wood or aluminum, depending on the designer. These are critiqued by Ginkgo and the designer to ensure the proper feel, weight, balance, radius of curve, elevation of shoulder, tines and bowls. Detailed engineering drawings and soft dies are prepared for initial samples. The new samples are then critiqued. Final changes are made to any errors in the design, execution or production. Occasionally, concepts cannot be executed in large production runs without affecting the look and feel of the piece. We then have to go back to the drawing board to re-think our concepts. When we have finished a piece that Ginkgo and the designer are happy with, we begin production. When you choose a Ginkgo pattern, you should feel the love, care and attention to detail that goes into every piece.
What do you mean by the marketing intent of the company?
The marketing intent of the company is of paramount importance. We are not judging the direction of other companies, we are simply stating what we are trying to accomplish. Ginkgo was founded by the Helmick family in 1977. We wanted to bring the best possible designer flatware to the market, at a reasonable price. We do not strive to produce goods for volume or large sales at the cheapest cost. All of our patterns are designers' patterns. We pay close attention to details of quality, yet our prices are very reasonable. We are not trying to set a tone by pricing out products expensively. We are trying to bring to the market, the best product at the best price. We want you to enjoy a lifetime of owning a well-designed and well-executed product.