The History and Use of Silver Folding Fruit Knives

The History and Use of Silver and Mother of Pearl Folding Fruit Knives

Folding fruit knives are a unique type of item first developed in the late 18th century.  They survived quite nicely over the next three centuries. They are often crafted from several different type of  materials.  The collectable folding fruit knives of today are often made from silver and mother of pearl. Both sterling silver and mother of pearl have special qualities that give them an edge over ordinary folding fruit knives.
The history of the folding fruit knife is an interesting one.  It has developed over the years to become a very common type of knife found in homes everywhere. This antique has evolved over the Edwardian, Georgian and Victorian ages to become a common part of households in England.  In addition it is found in many different parts of the globe.

The History of the Folding Fruit Knife

Folding fruit knives were developed from folding penknives which were first created around the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The penknife came in two different forms.  The fixed and folding blade.  The latter gained favour among the general public in England where the knife was first developed.
The original purpose of the penknife was to trim the quills that were used for writing. Along with the relatively short 1 ½” blade, the penknife was unique in that it had an odd spike at the end of the handle which was actually used to spit the quill itself when needed. Although people stopped writing with quills a long time ago, the penknife survives to this day in its folding version as it has a variety of uses.
It is the folding penknife that became the forerunner of the fruit knife that we see today. Although there is no exact record of when the first folding fruit knife came into existence, there is little doubt that it did develop from the folding penknife as they are roughly the same size and operate in a similar fashion.

Folding Penknife

Presumably, some time after the development of the folding penknife it was used to carve up fruit.  Who that person was we have no idea, but it was a natural progression since the folding penknife was easy to hold in one hand to slice, carve and divide up many different types of fruits  with ease.
However, the citric acid of the fruit created pits and quickly wore down the standard steel and typical  metals that were used to make the penknife, so other materials such as mother of pearl and most  commonly silver had to be used.

By the late 18th century, the first folding fruit knives had been created as an exclusive item. At first, they were rather fancy knives that were fashionable items among wealthy French aristocrats.  They insisted on more style and flare in these types of knives made for their families. In addition, they quickly became popular gifts as well.  As a result, this type of knife soon became widespread around Europe and in England.Why folding fruit knives became popular among the elite and the aristocracy is actually obvious.  They often had bad teeth finding eating fruit difficult, especially apples and pears which had to be bitten into. A folding fruit knife solved that problem as the fruit could easily be carved into small pieces.

French and English

Although the French developed the knife, it was in England where it really took off in terms of popularity. In places like London, Birmingham and especially Sheffield manufacturing plants were quickly developed.  As a result, this particular folding fruit knife became quite popular. Why exactly the knife became such a big hit in England is hard to say.  Howver,  it can be used for a  variety of purposes which makes it very versatile.

The knife itself is also known as a “slippie”.  Slippies have single-edge blade so it can be supported by the fingers on the back or flat side. There are also folding fruit knives with a “seed pick” as well so that the seeds can be quickly removed. Overall, the folding action of the knife is designed to be quick and smooth so that it can be handled normally.

As the knife took off in England, it spread to all the British colonies and into America as well, become a popular type of knife for its versatility. In recent years, the sterling silver and mother of pearl folding fruit knives have become collectors’ items, particularly those that were crafted in France in the late 18th century and the early ones from England as well.

The Importance of Sterling Silver & Mother of Pearl Folding Fruit Knives

The creation of sterling silver and mother of pearl for fruit knives were important because both materials were resistant to the citric acid that would eat away at many other materials in the knife itself. The fact that they could hold up against the acid that came from fruit meant two things. First, the knife would be passed from generation to generation in a family and second, they would be still intact many years later where their value might be considerable as collectors’ items.

In addition, silver has anti-microbial qualities which mean that bacteria are killed by the substances of the blade itself, making it rather hygienic in terms of use for slicing open fruit. Mother of Pearl is also found in folding fruit knives and gives it that extra bit of quality and flare which makes them valuable items as well, fetching good prices in the antique marketplace.

Sterling Silver

Interestingly enough, silver is not often used in knife blades because it is rather soft in nature. But sterling silver is very well suited for cutting into fruit and it can be used repeatedly in that function with little in the way of wear or dulling. As long as the knife is well maintained, it can last for a very long time.

Overall, the history and use of silver and mother of pearl folding fruit knives has entered the 21st century still holding its place as a popular and useful tool. Also, the older ones have become quite valuable as well, fetching good prices on the antique marketplace. For the collector, these types of knives can make for a good investment if the right research is completed.

Dart Silver Ltd always carry a selection of silver bladed fruit knives.  Please take a few seconds to view what we currently have for sale.  We believe we offer some of the most competitive prices on the market.
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Folding Fruit Knife with Orange Peeler
Folding Fruit Knife with Orange Peeler