A knife is a sharp-edged hand tool used for cutting, usually consisting of a blade attached to a handle.
There are a large variety of different types of knife, each designed for a different purpose such as hunting knives, Swiss Army knives, machetes and cutlery knives.
Knives can be used as both tools and weapons, and range in size and design from the purely functional to the highly decorative.
Antique knives are a popular collector’s item and are often sold alongside antique firearms or other weapons at gun shows and militaria auctions.
There are many different areas of knives which collectors may specialise in, such as military knives and blades, women's Victorian knives, fruit knives, pen knives, bowie knives, multi-tool knives (like Swiss Army knives), engraved knives and ceremonial knives and daggers.
Some people collect knives based on their manufacturer or their handle material, whereas others focus on a particular time period, country or culture.
Knives are some of the oldest tools used by mankind and played a large role in the survival of humans. The earliest humans used sharp bones and stones such as flint and quartz to cut and carve things. These primitive blades were hand-cut using rocks, until around 10,000 years ago with the discovery of copper.
Bronze and Iron Ages
Advancements in knife-making progressed in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, as the ability to melt and form metals opened up a brand new way to make all manner of different tools.
Knives that were once made out of stone and wood were now being made out of iron and steel.
With the coming of the Iron Age in the period 1000 to 800 B.C., the use of iron for the manufacture of knives developed.
Iron allowed a sharper and more durable cutting edge than bronze, but these knives were easily bent. The Vikings solved this problem by adding carbon, or "carbonizing" the iron, which hardened the iron blade and improved its rigidity and sharpness.
Ancient Greeks and Romans
The ancient Greeks and Romans are credited with creating the folding knife, and used knives with ivory blades for cutting fruit to prevent tainting the food with a metallic taste. These ivory knife handles were intricately carved and decorated, and seen as status symbols similar to jewellery.
During the Middle Ages the use of knives as weapons was further developed by professional soldiers, warriors and mercenaries who developed specific knife-fighting techniques and by the late 14th century books demonstrating these techniques began to be produced.
The Bowie knife was born during the early 19th century in the United States.
A prominent Arkansas blacksmith named James Black became well-known for his high quality knives, which were copied by blacksmiths in Sheffield, England, and sold in America as ‘Arkansas Toothpicks.’
Black made a knife for the renowned soldier, notorious knife fighter and celebrated pioneer James Bowie, who later died at the battle of the Alamo. The knives became known as ‘Bowie’ knives due to Bowie’s legendary status in Texas history.
The Swiss Army knife was invented by Karl Elsener, the owner of a surgical supply company in Switzerland in 1891.
After discovering that the knives used by the Swiss army were made in Germany, his national pride led him to design a Swiss-made knife to replace it. His company Victorinox cornered the market until 1893 when a second company from the French-speaking region of Jura, Paul Boéchat & Cie (later known as the Wenger Company), began to produce the knives.
In 1908 the Swiss government, wanting to prevent an issue over regional favouritism, split the contract with Victorinox and Wenger, each getting half of the orders placed. By mutual agreement, Wenger advertises as the ‘Genuine Swiss Army Knife’ and Victorinox uses the slogan the ‘Original Swiss Army Knife’.
In 2006 Victorinox acquired Wenger, becoming once again the sole supplier of knives to the Swiss Army.
The world’s most expensive knife
The world’s most expensive knife is the ‘Gem of the Orient’ knife, created by celebrated knife maker Buster Warenski as part of his Legacy series.
The knife’s jade and gold filigree handle is encrusted with 153 emeralds (10 carats), nine diamonds (5 carats), and uses 28 ounces of gold.
It took ten years to make, and was sold to the Japanese collector who commissioned it for $1.2m.