If you are a collector of American folding fruit knives, you've almost certainly run across examples of this knife in online sales sites or antique stores. The exasperating thing about them is that they all (at least from what I can tell) bear no markings that can help identify when, where and by whom they were made. As a consequence, you can find sellers' descriptions of these knives ranging from "silver plated" to "coin silver made by Gorham" (with no supporting marks!), to one that even maintained the one they had for sale was "Sterling silver--tested and guaranteed," but, again, with no photo showing a supporting mark.
I'm posting this in hopes there are some people on this Forum who can help shed light on this plentiful knife. Simon Moore, in his _Pocket Fruit Knives_, says these "Empress" designs were "found on many turn of the century knives." (p.230) It seems from their quantity and the machine tooling on them that they were mass produced in pretty significant numbers. But if that's the case, why weren't they marked as sterling, since that became required in the late 19th century? I have two in my collection. Knife #1 appears to me to be silver plated. (See pic #3) Knife #2's blade may be solid silver (or the plating has not been worn through). Curiously, the backsprings on both show no reaction to a magnet, so they are apparently made of some other metal than steel or iron. Here are some shots. My apologies in advance for the limitations of my macro shots (older camera).
Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this type of knife!