How to Collect Modernist Flatware

Grant Cornett

A brief guide to collecting the most eye-catching cutlery out there.

A collector with hundreds of patterns, August Editions publisher Dung Ngo sells and consults with auction houses and museums on all things fork and knife. Here, his crash course on an overlooked corner of design.

Price isn’t everything

Because of the genre’s relative obscurity, most finds can be had for a bargain. Compare costs to a midrange set you’d find at L.A.’s TableArt: around $150 to $300 for a five-piece setting, though you can spend (and I have) hundreds for a single piece (For more on L.A.'s best design shops, see our article »).

Learn new names

Few of the best-known modernists produced flatware, so embrace others, such as Jens Quistgaard, Carl Pott, and Ward Bennett.

Hunt online

Condition is not much of an issue. There may be the usual scratches from daily use, but given the durability of stainless steel and even silver, you can purchase from 1stdibs and eBay with confidence.

Take risks

Even seasoned dealers may not know what they’re offering. If you see something you like, get it; there’s a good chance it’s by a master. Look for brands such as C. Hugo Pott, Christofle, Alessi, and Sambonet.