If a fork was made of something other than silver such as gold, would it still be considered silverware?
“Where’s the silverware drawer?”
“Do we have any clean silverware?”
“We’re out of silverware.”
We use the term silverware regularly without stopping to wonder why. If the majority of all modern cutlery is made of stainless steel, why do we refer to it as silverware?
It is widely believed that the Romans were the first to fashion spoons from a variety of materials such as pewter, bone, silver, and bronze. Unfortunately, they were also the first to learn that not all materials were ideal eating utensils as many of the materials created chemical reactions with foods and liquids. For instance, when mixed with acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegars, and citruses, pewter experiences a chemical reaction, breaking down in the mouth to produce a metallic taste – and possibly a poisonous aftereffect!
Silver wasn’t just chosen for its resistance to chemical deterioration. It was a clean metal. For all of the nonsensical practices early humans kept, we have to give them credit. They knew that silver had disinfectant properties! Thanks to its oligodynamic properties, silver readily killed living organisms such as viruses and bacteria.
Regrettably, most common people were unable to attain silverware due to its price and so it became associated with the wealthy. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that the invention of stainless steel allowed for mass production of a wide array of cutlery.
But, still wishing to be included in the wealthy club, people continued to refer to this new type of cutlery as silverware.