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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 as well.
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.

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 low temperature.

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.

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 pocketknives?

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