In our last article, we talked about the various sizes of similar pieces such as forks and knives that might be available within a single sterling flatware pattern. This article builds on that topic, focusing just on knives.
We receive questions about knives more than any other topic. So here are some points to help reduce the confusion.
You see in the first photo the three common blade shapes in use today. The knives shown are in the Buttercup pattern by Gorham. The knife on top has a “blunt” blade. Blades with this shape are not manufactured much any more, if at all. The middle knife is often called “modern hollow knife”. It’s probably the most popular blade shape being manufactured now. The bottom knife has a “French” blade. All three shapes come in different lengths (discussed below).
A single type of blade shape may have been manufactured in slightly different shapes for a given pattern over the years. For example, at first glance, two modern blade knives of the same pattern might look exactly the same but upon closer inspection, you may find slight variations between two knives if they were manufactured at different times.
The second photo is a duplicate of one that appeared in the previous article we referenced earlier. It illustrates three different knife lengths. Many sterling flatware patterns offer three different lengths of knife. The Chantilly by Gorham modern hollow knives in this picture are, from top to bottom:
Luncheon….. 8 7/8 inches long
Place…………. 9 1/4 inches long
Dinner……….. 9 1/2 inches long
Note the differences in the relationship between handle length and blade length. There is also a noticeable difference in the weight of the knives.
In the case of the Chantilly pattern, French blade knives are also offered in luncheon, place and dinner lengths but they are slightly different from the modern hollow knife lengths. There is another length category you will not see often – “continental”. It’s larger than dinner length.
Here are a few points regarding knives today…
1. Specific use is not as important as it once was; i.e., luncheon knives are used for dinner and vice-versa. Very few people can afford three complete sets of knives and forks so the place size has become a popular compromise.
2. The names of the sizes are not used precisely; i.e., some people call place knives dinner knives, some people call dinner knives place knives, etc. Some people think French blade knives are luncheon knives. So, we tend to pay attention to actual measurements of the knives and the shape of the blade in pictures rather than trying to define them by name.
3. Most sterling silver knives currently in manufacture have sterling hollow handles. Most blades are stainless steel.
4. Most knives offered for sale on sites like eBay are luncheon or place lengths. If you don’t understand the length exactly for a piece you are considering buying, ask the seller for length specifications. Assuming equal condition, the longer the knife, the higher the price.