Presentoir, carving knife and fork, handles of ivory and piqué work, silver, red and green painted enamel, steel blades, etched and part gilded, Germany, 1682, museum number: 1193 to B–1864
Handles of ivory and piqué work, silver, red and green painted enamel, steel blades, etched and part gilded
Germany, dated 1682
Inscribed in German and Latin 'Pray and work' (présentoir) and in Latin '17 October 1682' (knife and fork)
A 'présentoir' or serving knife served carved meat to diners. The blade of this one is decorated with an etched design. The design was painted in an acid-resistant material before the object was dipped into an acid bath. The acid ate into the exposed metal leaving the design in relief. The handles are decorated with piqué work: thin strips of silver inlaid into ivory. Coloured enamels and lacquers add depth to the flower patterns.
Folding Spoon, steel and silver, partly gilded, Carlsbad, Bohemia (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic), 1680–1720, museum number: 1001B–1902
Steel and silver, partly gilded
Carlsbad, Bohemia (now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic), 1680-1720
Owner's mark 'AS'
This spoon was part of a travelling set with a knife and fork. The handle is hinged to allow it to be folded and stored. The handle has a design in gold on the surface. Gold leaf was heated, rubbed and hammered on and then burnished. Carlsbad was a spa town famous for its souvenirs.
Knife and Fork, handles of horn, mother-of-pearl and engraved brass, steel blades, Germany or Hungary, 1600–1700, museum number: M.1062–1910
Handles of horn, mother-of-pearl and engraved brass, steel blades
Germany or Hungary, 1600-1700
Mark a 'V' over three lozenges (unidentified)
Mother-of-pearl was an ideal material for making handles. Its diverse colours shimmered, it was cheaper than ivory and it lasted longer as it did not dry and split. The knife and fork may be 'Habaner work', a term used for folk art made by refugees from the Austrian province of Tyrol who settled in Hungary during the religious wars of the 16th century.
Knife, handle of porcelain (soft-paste), painted enamel and silver, steel blade, London, England, about 1756 (blade about 1850), museum number: M.1038E–1926
Handle of porcelain (soft-paste), painted enamel decoration and silver, steel blade
London, England, about 1756 (blade about 1850)
Handle made in the Bow factory, blade marked 'STAMMERS 99 STRAND LONDON'
Porcelain from China was so popular that European factories tried to imitate it. They could not immediately replicate the recipe for true Chinese porcelain (hard-paste), but devised substitutes known as 'soft-pastes'. Soft-paste factories at Bow and Chelsea produced ceramic knife handles in various patterns and styles from about 1750.
Serving Knife, handle of engraved ivory, green stained horn, bone and brass, steel blade, engraved and partly gilded, Italy, 1500–50 (handle possibly later), museum number: 310–1903
Handle of engraved ivory, green stained horn, bone and brass; steel blade, engraved and partly gilded
Italy, 1500-50 (handle possibly later)
Inscribed in Latin 'The blessing of the table. May the three-in-one bless that which we are about to eat' and 'The saying of grace. We give thanks to you God for your generosity'
Knives with musical notes on the blades are known as notation knives. This one is etched with the first tenor's part of the blessing of the meal (to be sung before) and the giving of thanks after.
Knife and Fork, handles of ivory, silver piqué work and red and green painted enamel, steel blades, London, England, 1698, museum number: M.976&A–1926
Handles of ivory, silver piqué work and red and green painted enamel; steel blades
London, England, dated 1698
Mark of Ephraim How (died 1720)
Inscribed 'Richard Rider December ye 9th 1698'
Ephraim How and his son John ran a successful and productive cutlery factory. They standardised their designs, employed a large workforce and harnessed local water power. They sold from their shop on Saffron Hill near Clerkenwell in London. Ephraim How became master of the Worshipful Company of Cutlers in 1706.
Knife, handle of iron, carved jet and gold wire, steel blade, England, 1610–30, museum number: M.1141–1926
Handle of iron, carved jet and gold wire, steel blade
Mark of John Jencks (active from about 1606-20) or Joseph Jencks (active from about 1622)
Cutlers' marks were not exclusive and could be passed on. The thistle on this knife belonged to John Jencks from 1606 until about 1620 when he died. It then became the mark of Joseph Jencks (possibly his son) about 1622. In 1656 it was the mark of John Arnold and in 1664 it was passed to George Arnold, possibly the son of John.
Saw, steel, ebony, ivory and amber, Italy, 1580–1620, museum number: 1393–1888
Steel, ebony, ivory and amber
During the 16th century, knives and saws had a variety of uses. Hunting sets, for example, might contain a carving knife, a flesh knife and a saw such as this for cutting bone. Surgical sets also contained saws in this form, used for amputations.
Scrivener’s Knife, handle of agate and silver, steel blade, North-west Europe, 1650–1700, museum number: 1052–1902
Handle of agate and silver, steel blade
North-west Europe, 1650-1700
A scrivener was a professional penman or scribe who transcribed court records and copied documents. Scriveners used knives such as this to cut and shape goose feathers into writing quills. Most knives had a spike on the end of the handle for splitting the nib. The word penknife comes from this use.
Nutcrackers, steel and brass, possibly Germany, 1700–1800, museum number: 718–1892
Steel and brass
Possibly Germany, 1700-1800
The crushers are in the form of an animal's head. According to German folklore, nutcrackers were good luck charms, representing power and strength. They served as watchdogs to guard your home and family from evil spirits and danger. The nutcracker snarled at the evil spirits and brought good luck and good will.