Not all stainless steel is of the same quality and composition. The more nickel and chrome in the base steel alloy, the harder and more durable it is. Consequently, it is more expensive to machine and polish. Stainless steel flatware is made from one of several different alloys. The most commonly used alloys are 304, 410, 420 and 430.
In addition to steel, the alloy 304 contains the durability of 18% chrome and the soft luster of 8% nickel. This rich blend of chrome and nickel provides maximum rust and corrosion protection. 18/8 stainless is regarded most highly and is found in the finest stainless steel flatware. In Europe, an 18/10 composition is used, which is equivalent to U.S. standard 18/8.
The alloy 430 contains 18% chrome and no nickel. Offering an economical approach, 18/0 stainless has the impressive look and feel of 18% chrome, as well as a durable, high polish finish. It provides excellent resistance to rust and corrosion. 18/0 stainless holds up relatively well to heavy commercial use but does not provide the lasting luster of 18/8.
410 stainless steel alloy contains 13% chrome and no nickel. 13/0 stainless steel offers beauty at a modest price but also is the least resistant to corrosion and rusting. It is appropriate when price is the top consideration.
knife blades, whether stainless steel or silverplate, are made of 420 alloy. This high-carbon, 13% chrome materials ideally suited to blade forging and results in a sharp cutting edge. 1-piece knives are always made of 13% chrome.