The most elegant vintage pocket knives are generally found handled in premium pearl, ivory, or tortoise shell. However, there is another fine material which is less common but equally, if not more, valuable. That material is sterling silver. Nickel silver is often used in various components of quality pocket knives but it is not the same as high-grade sterling silver; in fact nickel silver contains no silver. Some of the best names in American and European cutlery offered fine gentleman’s folding knives handled in sterling silver.
Along with gold, silver has been used as currency around the world for thousands of years. As with pure gold, pure silver is good for a commodity but it has few practical applications since it is very soft in its pure form. By contrast, sterling silver is rated at 92.5% silver by weight, with an added 7.5% of another metal, usually copper. The added small amount of copper gives the sterling silver just enough strength to be used for objects such as knife handles.
This article appeared in the November 2020 issue of KNIFE Magazine. Premium Online Members can read the whole thing by clicking the blue box below.