Vintage cutlery is a joy to use – from the different styles of design and unusual items that are not common today, to the way they feel when you hold them. You can find really good quality pieces to add to your collection.
You can easily blend in old pieces with your existing set and make your own style – a meal is suddenly elevated with a lovely serving spoon or set of knives and a cake even more of a treat with the right forks!
If you’d like to know a little more, here are 10 cutlery facts to get you started!
THE WORD 'CUTLERY'
The word ‘cutlery’ derives from the word ‘cuteler’ which comes from the Old French word ‘coutelier’ and derived from ‘coutel’ meaning knife – in modern French ‘couteau’. In Latin the word for knife was ‘cutler’.
A person who sells cutlery is known as a Cutler.
The first reference to cutlery made in Sheffield was in 1297, when the hearth tax records include Robertus le Coteler – Robert the Cutler.
Sheffield became a key centre for cutlery due to the availability of nearby raw materials such as iron ore, coal, charcoal and stone for grinding wheels. There is also a number of fast flowing rivers in Sheffield to help power machinery.
OLD SHEFFIELD PLATE
Discovered in 1743, Old Sheffield Plate was made by fusing silver to sheets of copper. This made silver items more affordable.
The majority of work was carried out by ‘Little Mesters’. A Little Mester is a self-employed worker who rents space in a factory or works from their own workshop. Each Little Mester specialised in a single process or technique. There are still some Little Mesters working in Sheffield today.
In Sheffield in 1812, 6000 people out of the working population of 18,000 in the cutlery industry were producing for the American market. It was reported a third of all manufactured goods were exported to America.
After the 1840’s electroplating became a more common method of silver plating metal items and replaced the Old Sheffield Plate manufacturing method.
Stainless steel was discovered in 1913 by Harry Brearley (although other accounts say that there were other developments that lead to the discovery). Brearley found that a low carbon steel with 12% chromium would resist rust. However the First World War slowed the process for it to be commonplace in cutlery manufacture.
IS CUTLERY STILL MADE IN SHEFFIELD?
Yes, but by the 1990’s there were only around 1000 people employed by cutlery manufacturers in Sheffield. Cutlery is still made in Sheffield today by a handful of manufacturers.
Museums Sheffield – http://www.sheffieldcutlerymap.org.uk/history-of-the-cutlery-industry/
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cutlery