First developed in the early eighteenth century, fruit knives were derived from the design of folding penknives, which as their name suggests, were primarily designed to trim, shape and split the large goose feathers used as quill pens.
Pen knives were handy, compact and quickly became popular for all manner of everyday tasks. However, when used for peeling and slicing fruit, a standard penknife would soon tarnish and rust, as its largely steel construction could not withstand the citric acid found in fruit.
Sterling silver and mother of pearl are, however, immune to the effects of citric acid, and so specialised fruit knives were produced in these materials. Unlike penknives, fruit knives were expensive and became largely the preserve of aristocrats and the elites, who, due to the increasing popularity of sugar (and fortuitously for the makers of fruit knives), usually had fairly terrible teeth, necessitating the use of a knife to chop the fruit into manageable pieces. As such, fruit knives were designed for practicality as well as appearance, and many also featured a handy small hook-like appendage designed to remove pips.
The knives featured in our auction this Saturday are fine examples in a condition that belies their age - a beautiful collection.
View them in our catalogue here (lot 811 onwards):