What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Gold Cutlery?
There are several advantages and disadvantages to substituting regular stainless steel cutlery or silverware with gold cutlery. Among the obvious advantages are that gold cutlery adds increased elegance to any dining affair, and gold itself is a completely non-toxic and safe metal should microscopic amounts of it scrape off during prolonged use and get into food. Since gold is such a soft, malleable metal, it is also true the cutlery is not as durable as silverware or stainless steel. This is in large part due to the fact that most gold cutlery is in actuality made from zinc or copper with a thin plating of pure gold on its surface, which can easily be abraded, scratched, and marred over time.
The relative fragility of this cutlery compared to that of other types of silverware is its major drawback in repeated use. Plated cutlery has a layer of surface gold that is only several microns thick. By comparison, a human hair is usually between 50-120 microns in thickness. Antique gold cutlery that is solid gold may present even more difficulties, as the soft quality of gold makes it likely that harm will occur. For example, the tines in forks will break with repeated use and the cutlery will sustain bending and warping damage with regular use that is difficult to repair.
Methods for cleaning gold cutlery are best chosen based on how much time and money someone wants to put into maintaining its original quality. All abrasive polishes and rough polishing cloths should be avoided, as they can strip off areas of the gold surface where fine scratches or pits may have appeared during use. Automatic dishwasher cleaning should also be avoided and only hand cleaning employed to avoid unexpected mechanical or chemical damage. Expensive ultrasonic cleaners are available using high frequency sound waves and tap water to clean delicate materials such as jewelry and this type of cutlery, with minimal surface degradation. A low-cost method would be to use a jewelry polishing cloth with a mild acidic solution of lemon juice in water, using a gentle swirling motion to polish the cutlery and rub out stains.
Modern electroplating processes have made beautiful gold cutlery available at fairly affordable costs. The real drawback to its use is in the delicate cleaning process, and the fact that the durability of gold as a soft metal makes it somewhat impractical for everyday use. Gold does not react with any acids or fruit juices found in foods, however, and is also impervious to oxidation from the air or water. When properly cared for, gold cutlery can retain its new appearance indefinitely.
@Iluviaporos - I don't really think it's a bad thing for people to use gold plated cutlery now though. As long as they are careful with it, it will last a long time and it could really go with certain kinds of dining room set-ups, particularly ones with a dark theme.
If you get a set that is plated over a durable metal then it's not going to destroy a piece every time it gets nicked.
@Fa5t3r - I think it was once one of those things where royalty would use gold cutlery as a mark of wealth when dining with others. Gold flatware doesn't really have any advantages in the modern world, now that we've got plenty of metals that aren't going to rust with exposure to moisture.
I know gold is supposed to look more elegant than silver, but I just think that gold silverware wouldn't really look right. You'd have to almost shape your entire dining room set around it, since most other variations of cutlery will look like silver, even if they aren't silver.
Gold just isn't a neutral color the way that silver usually is. And frankly, if someone I knew brought out gold plated cutlery I would also see it as a bit gaudy.
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