Many sterling flatware patterns offer at least three different sizes of forks and knives. Some also offer different sizes of salad forks and soup spoons. The size groups are called, moving from shortest to longest:
The dinner size traditionally has been used for more formal dinners. Dinner forks typically range between 7.5 inches and 8 inches. Dinner knives range between 9.5 and 10 inches. Luncheon pieces typically have been used for meals other than formal dinners. A luncheon knife generally is 9 inches or shorter. A luncheon fork generally is 7 inches or shorter.
Some sterling flatware manufacturers started producing the "place" size as a compromise. Silver prices began to soar and it was too expensive for many homes to own more than one length of forks and knives. So, the place pieces served for luncheon or dinner. A place fork often is around 7.5 inches long and a place knife is often about 9.25 inches long. Gorham marks its place pieces with a "P" inside a tiny diamond shape.
It can be a bit confusing because some place pieces and dinner pieces are the same length in a given pattern. For example, in Gorham's Chantilly and Buttercup patterns, the dinner fork and place fork are both 7.5 inches long. When you examine the pieces closely in these patterns, you realize that the dinner fork is a tiny bit wider and somewhat heavier than the place fork.
There is another size, "continental", that is even larger than the dinner size. You see this sometimes in Europe but not often in the United States.
Today, size has become less important. All sizes are used for all purposes by many people. The choice is really up to you.By clicking on "Comments/Questions" below, you can see posted comments and add your own questions and comments. Or, you can send us an email by clicking on "View My Complete Profile" in the right column.