Around the middle of the 18th century, folding fruit knives began to appear. These knives, often accompanied by forks, were usually made from silver.
The first designs were similar to other folding knives of the times including influences from France. Silver was used because it is less affected by the acid in fruit than iron alloys.
The Sheffield knife makers were exceeding London in knife making and the silversmiths discovered the technique of silver on copper plating.
In 1773, the Sheffield Assay Office was established and thus continued the domination of the Sheffield folding knife makers.
Most of blades were spear or scimitar shape and the handles were the pistol grip type. The bolsters were made of copper that was plated with silver.
The handle scales were made mostly from mother-of-pearl or tortoiseshell. Sometimes the handles were scaled with ivory or plated with silver.
The knife and fork set was sometimes accompanied by a spoon. Often the fruit eating utensils were sold in a leather box with a removable lid.
Around the beginning of the 19th century, the Sheffield and Birmingham made folding fruit knives and forks became fancier.
The engraving took on a neo-classical style and was often personalized with initials or names on the shields. The knife sets became something very personal and special as a gift.
By the mid 19th century, the scales began to be engraved in the “art nouveau style”. By the late 19th century, the engraving took on a Gothic type style.
The development of the folding fruit knife indicates that life was settling down at the time. There was less wars in Western Europe and craftsmen could apply their talents in a peaceful manner.