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topic 15303p2

Bronze flatware, is it safe?

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A discussion started in 2002 but continuing through 2019

March 15, 2011

Q. I have recently purchased a couple of beautiful brass trays which appear to be hand engraved with a variety of oriental characters including ladies, a bear in oriental dress and birds.
I believe that these designs have a meaning or tell a story but I would love to know more if anyone can help.

Fred Gregory
hobbyist - England

July 17, 2011

Q. Have an original set of Thai bronzeware which was used occasionally, thoroughly hand washed and dried and box stored. Recently it was used for a couple of dinner parties and put in the dishwasher (on advice of a supposed expert!). The finish has dulled and Brasso doesn't help. Any suggestions to restore the original shine - or at least something to make it look less revolting? Thank you.

Sharon Kapuscak
- Glendale, Arizona, USA

July 18, 2011

A. Hi, Sharon.

You probably just need to do heavier polishing than you have been able to do by hand with something as mild as Brasso. Try something stronger like Barkeepers Friend [affiliate link to product info on Amazon]. And if that still doesn't do it, try a buffing pad on your battery operated electric drill or on a Dremel [affiliate link to product info on Amazon]. Start with a mild polishing compound like Mother's Aluminum and Magnesium polish, and if you're still not getting enough cutting action you'll have to move up to a real buffing compound (these have abrasive particles in them).

In letter 16071, Julie F. from Kalamazoo reported great success with white rouge on a bench top grinder -- but I wouldn't recommend such a powerful machine unless you have some experience with it; they can be very dangerous -- flinging a fork at your eye, for example.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

October 25, 2011

A. Hi all,

I am a European (mostly) trained dermatologist (Diplomate of Dermatology, University of Londona; Fellow of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschienst or the German Academic Exchange Service, University of Hamburg 6 years, Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, etc) and author of two textbooks of Dermatology.

Just wish to inform the visitors of your site that as my subspeciality is Allergology, I can tell you not to use flatware with Nickel.

One may even for years seem "ok", using flatware with nickel but the allergy will just one day pop up.

Bad scene.


Dr. Genevieve Huang
- Makati, Philippines

January 2012

A. Thanks, Dr. Huang. Even as a layman I agree that nickel allergy is an acquired problem and a terrible curse.

What are the implications of what you are saying, though? Certainly when the silver plating on flatware wears away and reveals the nickel silver that lies under it, it has a metallic taste, and I can believe that it is leaching nickel to some extent.

But I taste nothing from 18-8 and 18-10 stainless steel (type 304 and 316 stainless steel), and metallurgists tell us that they do not leach nickel and are safe. Do you disagree with that assessment and feel that only 4xx stainless steel (18-0) is safe? Thanks again!


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

November 20, 2011

Flitz [affiliate link to product info on Amazon] is the best cleaner/polisher for Thai bronzeware that I've come across.

Veye Nicoise
- Syracuse, New York USA

January 25, 2012

Q. Hello out there in flatware question land,
I bought a three tier wooden box of beautiful flatware this summer. I want to use it as our primary utensils. It is from a Co. named Thai Gems Factory in Bangkok. It has beautiful wooden handles and what looks like solid brass metal. Does anyone know if this is safe? I loved reading the thread, and get the general consensus, but maybe you know the company?
Thank you

Heidi Hall
- California, USA

January 28, 2012 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I picked up a beautiful set while in Thailand and now I want to know if it is safe to use?

Bronte Erickson
- GIG HARBOR, Washington

October 10, 2012

Q. We recently discovered a three tier box of flatware from Thailand in my mothers belongings. It has the name (crown jewelry) engraved on the back of each piece. We are not sure if it is brass or bronze, how can you tell? Does anybody know about this flatware?

Diana Punke
- Eureka, Illinois

October 19, 2012

Q. I mistakenly washed part of my set of bronzeware in the dishwasher and it lost quite a bit of its color. Is there a way to restore it to its original finish?

Marilyn Bulli
- Boston, Massachusetts USA

October 22, 2012

A. Hi Marilyn. Your question appears to be about the same as asked by Sharon K (July 17, 2011) and my answer would be the same: if you find that working by hand with commercial polishes isn't proving effective, you'll have to polish away the dullness, probably using a dremel or battery operated drill with a buffing pad & compound. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

November 8, 2012

Q. Can you please assist me in buying a full set of flatware as in Ivette Davis- Anasco, Puerto Rico photo posted on the July 21, 2008 of the elephant and the princess. I am from South Africa and would love to buy a full set like that. Please help, I do not have the slightest idea of where to start looking.

Kind regards


Gerhard Van Der Merwe
- South Africa

November 12, 2012

A. Hi Gerhard.

I have no experience in that either. I would suggest Ebay, Craigslist, and a local antique store or auctioneer.

Please recognize that we cannot put readers into contact with each other for propositions like this as we don't have 1/1000 the horsepower in our servers, nor the manpower available, for the huge flood of traffic and spam which that involves. Sorry, but this site is for technical questions and answers, not for commercial contact.


Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. - Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live Aloha

January 13, 2013

Q. One of my dinner guest last night snapped (at the neck)his spoon. Its the three headed elephant service I've had for 46 yrs and used 4x per yr. How can it be repaired if at all? By the way, I only put the service in the dishwasher once with the discoloring of the service. I only hand wash it now and polish with Brasso.

John Ford
- Sanford, Maine, USA

March 18, 2013

Q. I have a boxed large set in three sections purchased by my late husband probably in the early 1980's, most probably from a hotel gift shop. (We have never used it).
It is stamped on the back Thailand and has wooden handles and I think the figure on the top is a praying god with a figure on either side of him.
The enclosed booklet had S. T. (Thailand) Ltd. Part. which I cannot find on the internet.
The booklet says it is closely and carefully inspected and guaranteed that there is no danger nor harm to health. Wash with only warm, not hot water, and can clean with silver polish.
Does this set sound familiar to anyone.

Cheryl O'Brien
- Pocahontas, Arkansas, USA

April 29, 2014

Q. I have a set of Bronzeware that my husband purchased in Thailand in 1964. I had forgotten all about it but it recently resurfaced. It is in a large three drawer chest. Mine has teak on the handles with a goddess figure on top. The name on the inside lid says "Johny's Gems in Bancock, Thailand." The word "Siam" is stamped on the flatware.

Recently a friend of mine was watching Antique Roadshow and someone there said that the bronzeware was toxic and not to use it.

Would like to learn more about the bronzeware. Is it safe to use? Any information would be appreciated.

Bette Ulshoffer
- Prescott, Arizona USA

May 3, 2014

Q. Okay, most people think it's safe, and I didn't see the Antiques Roadshow comment. But I want to use the large set my parents got in Bangkok in the 70s. Opening it up, it has a very unpleasant odor. I think it's the horn handles (sure wish they were bamboo!). Anyone know how to care for these?

virginia sue wallace
- chapel hill North Carolina

September 24, 2014

Q. I was at a country auction and purchased a set of what I guess must be cast bronze flatware, an almost-dead-ringer for the Scanline designs by Sigvard Bernadotte. The only mark on the pieces is a stamp that looks like RTM in a circular design, although there are a few teaspoons that are marked Thailand.

The pieces are mostly quite dull and look slightly oxidized. Any suggestions for polishing would be appreciated, and any ideas as to the manufacturer and metallurgy also.

Robert Buckner
- Lindsay, Ontario, Canada

December 16, 2016

A. Bronze made of Pure copper and Tin is safest to take meal in this plate as we get 100% FDA approval and manufacture these plates with purest form of metal.

Rajesh Kansara
- Jodhpur Rajasthan India

August 2, 2015

Q. More than once, I have seen Dirigold/Dirilyte referred to as an "aluminum bronze." If I'm understanding, an aluminum bronze is primarily copper, with aluminum, rather than tin, added to make the alloy, and that sometimes nickel is added. So I'm wondering if Thai nickel bronze is an aluminum bronze with nickel added. I've seen and held both Dirigold and Thai bronze flatware. In terms of heft and appearance, the pieces are similar.

I looked up aluminum bronze in Wikipedia, and the article said that aluminum bronze is chemically inert, and that aluminum oxide forms a protective barrier. Does this affect anyone's opinion on the safety of bronze flatware, if it's actually correct that it's an aluminum bronze? Does "chemically inert" mean that it would not leach nickel if that is part of the alloy?

I have two sets of Thai bronze flatware, recently purchased at goodwill. One set was dull, the other never used and shiny. I found that a paste of Barkeeper's Friend, rubbed in with a rubber glove, did a great job polishing the dull set. Any reason why I should avoid Barkeeper's Friend on bronze flatware if it needs to be polished in the future?

Nicole Fortuin
- Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

May 1, 2017

A. My parents acquired bronze flatware back in the early 1950s. They used it fairly often and I earned my allowance by polishing it. Ours had carabao (water buffalo) horn inserts instead of the rosewood I see in more modern sets. We used Brasso (and lots of elbow-grease), were careful to keep the polish off the horn parts, and washed well in soapy water. No apparent ill effects on the people or the flatware. I'm not sure I'd use it for my everyday flatware, but it would be more for the work of proper maintenance than any safety concerns.

Judith Abbott
- Highland, Maryland USA

December 17, 2017

Q. Hi, this is a very interesting thread. Thank you.

My question is clarification as to the safety of my 144-piece "solid nickel-bronze Thailand (non plating). It is made by VU, Swan design. I have attached a pic.


Many thanks

Tena Swanson Moore
- Norwich UK

April 13, 2018

Q. We purchased a large set of bronzeware while stationed in Bangkok, Thailand around 1974. It was one of these little factories and we had a tour of it and were able to purchase a large set. We have used some of the pieces since then. I just want to know if it is safe. This is all eating utensils. Nothing like plates and such. Just standard forks, spoons and knives. We care for it just like our stainless steel.

Nancy Luebke
- MADISON, Indiana

April 24, 2018

A. Bronze silverware is nothing to stress over. I've got one of those vintage Thai bronze and rosewood sets myself that I keep for special occasions, and use it without fear (except for the fear of how long it takes to get tarnish off the stupid things lol!).
Think about the conditions for exposure: Frequency, Intensity, and Duration. Most folks use stainless for everyday meals and bust out the fancy stuff once in a while. So frequency is low. You're going to polish them before putting them out for guests, leaving no surface crud, and anyway the most dangerous thing in them would probably just be nickel, and not a lot of it, and honestly it's not really GOING anywhere. So Intensity is low too. As for Duration, the total amount of time a fork is in contact with food over the course of a meal isn't really that much. You're not slow-cooking something corrosive in a bronze pot, you're just scooping up a forkful of dinner.

affil. link
Never Dull Polish

The best thing I've found to clean them is Nevr-dull followed by hot soapy water and then wiped down with a flannel. Other folks swear by Brasso. Gonna be honest here, polishing compound residue is way more worrisome than the flatware itself. And if I had to choose between eating off of bronze forks at every meal, and microwaving stuff in plastic or putting hot food on melamine... I'll take the bronze forks any day of the week ;)

Rachel Mackintosh
Plating Solutions Control Specialist / Industrial Metals Waste Treatment - Brattleboro, Vermont

July 31, 2018

thumbs up sign  Great thread. Rachel, I'm following your advice and putting it away for special occasions. Plus you have an ADORABLE dog! We loved using our Thai flatware with the kids, but as it's gotten more dulled by the dishwasher it's going back in the cupboard.

Karma Raines
- Marin, California

September 2, 2018

A. I have been using Thai Bronze Flatware for 10 years or so. Started using it because we are on brackish well water, and steel flatware would seriously rust on a regular basis. No problems so far that we are aware of; it does take on a patina but we just wash with soap and water and sometimes polish but we use it every day.

Gary Dishaw
- San Diego, California USA

January 2, 2019

A. I have been using this cutlery for years, have full set box marked SIAM and another set marked Thailand for every day use.
Do not put in dishwasher, and salt on half lemon takes the tarnish away quickly.

Tricia Cook
- Sydney Australia

August 31, 2019 -- this entry appended to this thread by editor in lieu of spawning a duplicative thread

Q. I just bought some bronze ware from James Jewelry in Bangkok. I am now concerned that this flatware should not be used as a dinner place setting. Any suggestion of where I can get the pieces checked for lead? A chemist at a nearby university?
I don't want to just display the pieces if I can feel safe eating with them.
Any suggestions are appreciated.

Diane Minsker
- Charlotte, North Carolina

September 8, 2019

A. There are two basic ways to check for lead:
1) destructive: take metal shavings off and send to a lab for digestion in nitric acid and analysis by ICP-OES. you will have to sacrifice some part of the set for this as you need about a half gram of metal to make the specimen.
2) non destructive: find someone who has an xrf analyzer, like a metal recycling facility, and have them shoot it for ya. The device will show relative concentrations of the allowing constituents.
Frankly I would not worry about this, for the reasons I have outlined above.

Rachel Mackintosh
Plating Solutions Control Specialist / Industrial Metals Waste Treatment - Brattleboro, Vermont

October 27, 2019

! I have had a bronze Thai utensils set for decades since acquiring them in Hawaii around 1992. Mine have no adornment whatsoever and all have handles tapered to points. Handles were said to be water buffalo horn-impervious to water or rotting and are pegged to the handles by small bronze pins. They are definitely not the flashy GI souvenir sets I've seen.
I have never seen another set like mine which please me so much I have used them EXCLUSIVELY as an every day connection to my USAF Special Ops from NKP in Thailand, NVN, Laos, and Cambodia (1969-1970). I'd love to know if anyone else has one of these elegant 'peoples' water buffalo horn-handle sets. I love them unreasonably every day, hoping they're not toxic but using them anyway.
Capt. Monkey Hotel. USAF Special Ops Intel: Task Force Alpha, TUOC infil, exfil, SAR ops.

Michael Hemp
The History Company - Gig Harbor, Washington, USA

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