Until I got married and benefited from my family and friends' generosity, I had a limited mishmash of cheap flatware. Receiving good-quality, matching spoons, forks, and knives has gone a long way to helping me set a nice table and feel like an adult.
I quickly realized that the frequency with which you use your flatware makes the investment in a quality set very worthwhile. If you buy something simple and beautiful that's well made, you won't have to purchase any others for a long time. (Unless otherwise noted, all the prices below are for five-piece settings.)
1. Aero Flatware from Crate & Barrel, $59.95
2. David Mellor "Pride" Flatware from Canoe, $165
3. Forged Flatware by West Elm, $27
4. Kate Spade "Malmo" for Lenox, $70*
5. 714 Flatware from CB2, $59.95 for a 20-piece set
6. Magnum Flatware by Don Wallace from Canoe, $145
7. Laguiole Flatware from Williams-Sonoma, $89
8. Sushi Queen Flatware from Anthropologie, $24 for a four-piece setting
9. Halstead Flatware from Crate & Barrel, $42.95
10. Renzo Piano "Piano" Flatware by iittala from Finn Style, $140
* This is the set I received through my wedding registry earlier this year. I can report that it looks great, is nicely balanced, and is holding up well...and it has a lifetime guarantee to boot.
(Images: As linked above.)