Looking for info on "The Empress" silver folding fruit knife

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Jazzman111
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Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:46 am

Looking for info on "The Empress" silver folding fruit knife

Postby Jazzman111 » Wed Oct 03, 2018 4:17 pm

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).

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Thanks in advance for any light you can shed on this type of knife!

Jim

Aguest
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Re: Looking for info on "The Empress" silver folding fruit knife

Postby Aguest » Thu Oct 04, 2018 12:40 pm

I believe the design is more commonly known as "medallion" and there is a book on it entitled "Silver Medallion Flatware" if you want to know more about the general category ::: I would think that your knives are coin silver or sterling silver, but there are testing methods to give you a very high degree of certainty as to silver content :::

I am not sure how to link your knives to a particular maker, but perhaps the book would be of some assistance?

The medallion is found on flatware, fruit knives, salt cellars, and even napkin rings ::: Medallion silver is sometimes unmarked :::

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Unmarked Medallion Napkin Ring with bright-cut floral details :::

Jazzman111
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Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2018 10:46 am

Re: Looking for info on "The Empress" silver folding fruit knife

Postby Jazzman111 » Sun Oct 14, 2018 4:06 pm

Thanks for your interesting information and book reference. I'll have to check it out. Further research at this end suggests that this "medallion" pattern was popular and presumably uncopyrighted, so many variations were produced by different makers. Here, one silversmith calls it the "Diana Medallion."

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Aguest
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Re: Looking for info on "The Empress" silver folding fruit knife

Postby Aguest » Fri Oct 19, 2018 12:47 am

Sometimes you can identify specific figures in the medallions, sometimes mythological like Diana, I've seen Pan, and I've seen a Greek Soldier with the comb on top of the helmet, usually they fall into the general category of "Greek Revival" which was extremely popular 1880-1915, at which point The Great War (and the financial panic) of 1914 had great effect on the design of sterling silver, suddenly ostentatious designs went out of fashion :::

Here is one of the last medallions I have yet encountered with a date mark of 1913, extremely late in the history of medallion silver, a Gorham Ice Bucket with Medusa Medallion:

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legrandmogol
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Re: Looking for info on "The Empress" silver folding fruit knife

Postby legrandmogol » Fri Oct 19, 2018 10:42 am

From what I have seen and read, the "Revival" styles, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Etruscan, Renaissance, Gothic, Persian etc were most popular between 1850 - 1880, they begin to taper off around then as East Lake, Japanese, Aesthetic, Art Nouveau and Colonial/Georgian Revival had their time in the sun. Most folding fruit knives date from around 1840 - 1890 in American and earlier if English. The 1860's and 1870's seem to be their heyday as they became commonly replaced by entire fruit/ desert sets. At least in America anyway, these sets were already fairly common in England by the early 1800's.


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