Man's earliest sharp tools were made
from natural materials such as stone, shells or bone.
Compared to later materials, it is a wonder these
crude implements should work at all, but they did,
although poorly. Nevertheless these primitive "knives"
were a source of life in a sense for our ancestors.
They helped us obtain food, build shelter and create
other tools to continue the process. Such important
objects took on not just practical but mystical significance
Is this why people today are drawn to cutlery with
such a strong fascination? Are we harkening back to
the days when the edged tools meant survival? Archaeologists
tell us that these valued possessions were included
in graves. So, cutlery took its first step into mysticism
many thousands of years ago.
THE FIRST METAL KNIVES
In the human quest to make a better life and because
of another tool fire man took a great technological
leap about 8000 BC., somewhere in the Middle East.
He learned to melt metal. At first it was only copper
ore, a material that turns liquid at a relatively
We had learned how to shape the raw
materials of the earth to meet our desires, but as
a practical matter for cutlery, copper still isn't
very good. The molecular arrangement of copper is
such that the crystals in its structure slip past
one another easily, so the material won't take an
edge. One might think that mixing two soft materials
would be useless, but the result is bronze, a much
harder substance that will take an edge.
The Bronze Age was born and so were
alchemy, the art and pseudo-science of making valuable
metals out of base metal. The alchemists never succeeded
in making gold out of lead, but they did lay the foundations
for modern chemistry and metallurgy.
MYSTICISM AND CUTLERY
When little or no written language is available, the
only way you can remember information is through oral
and mystic ritual. The mysticism and superstitions
of alchemists and smiths fueled a rich folklore of
magical swords, metals with supernatural properties
and secret formulas. Is it any wonder why today we
enjoy thinking of our favorite cutlery as having mysterious
capabilities to hold an edge, even if our evidence
is limited to personal experience with one or two
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