Date Made/Found: 1920s-1930s
Material and Medium: stainless steel , plastic and Cardboard
Dimensions: Overall (Box): 25 x 74 x 210mm (1 x 2 15/16 x 8 1/4in.)
Overall (Knives): 20 x 203mm (13/16 x 8in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: 2012.281
‘Stainless’ steels are iron alloys containing chromium, a hard metal which can be polished to a high shine and resists corrosion. In the early twentieth century many scientists in Europe and America were experimenting with recipes for rust resisting steel. Working for Brown-Firth Laboratories in Sheffield, Harry Brearley discovered that adding chromium to molten iron produced a metal which did not rust. He struggled to win the support of his employers, and turned to his friend Ernest Stuart, Cutlery Manager at R F Mosley's Portland Works. Their first ‘rustless’ knives were ready three weeks later.
Many were sceptical about ‘stainless’ steel. It was rumoured that the material was poisonous, and made knives that won’t cut. Knife grinders complained about the difficulty of grinding and sharpening the new blades. During the early years many rival products and cheaper imitations were on the market. Poor materials, design or manufacture could mean that ‘stainless’ did not live up to its name. It took decades of development and marketing for stainless to gain an established reputation for quality.
In the early years stainless steel was marketed under many different names, including ‘Everbright’ and ‘Rustnorstain’. Tarnish-resisting cutlery was still a relatively new concept and manufacturers had to work hard to convey the benefits to potential buyers.Display Location: