Cake knife and boxPrevious owner:
, British, 1863 - 1944
John Sanderson & Son Ltd
Material and Medium: silver, mother of pearl, wood, textile, leather
Dimensions: Other: 22 x 245mm (7/8 x 9 5/8in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: Virtual2007.173-174
This knife was made by the Sheffield silversmith, John Sanderson. The silver blade is stamped with the maker's mark, 'J S' in a shield. It was hallmarked at Sheffield Assay Office in 1899. John Sanderson registered his silver mark at the Assay Office in October 1895. In the 1907 Sheffield commercial directory he is described as a "cap & ferrule maker". At the time this object was made, he was based at premises at 18 Arundel Street and Tudor Place. Prior to this, he worked on Holly Street.
The ferrule is also made from silver and was also hallmarked in 1899. It was made by William Yates, who was based on Rockingham Street. In the 1898 directory, he is described as a "silver ferrule mfr [manufacturer]". Yates first registered his mark 'W Y' at the Assay Office in July 1877.
This knife served a very specific function. The back (top edge) of the silver blade has a serrated edge. This is a characteristic feature of a cake knife. Melon carvers and lemon saws also feature serrated backs. Cake knives were used at tea or dessert to cut individual slices from a large cake. They were also available with matching forks, which together were called cake carvers.
Like many dessert items, cake knives were most often made with silver or silver plate blades. During the late 1800s, the handles of expensive cake knives were made from ivory or mother of pearl. Cheaper versions had plastic handles designed to imitate these expensive imported materials.
The cake knife is presented in a velvet lined case with a decorative, gathered border around the edge of the interior. In contemporary catalogues this style is known as puckered-edge. The fact that it is housed in a case probably means that it was given as a gift.
The knife is chased with the initials 'W G E' and 'Nov 8th 1899'. This might indicate that it was presented to Winifred Grace Ellis, daughter of the Sheffield silversmith, George Ellis and his wife, Louisa. Winifred Grace was born in Sheffield on the 6th November 1898. It might have been given to her as a christening gift. However, a cake knife seems a rather unusual present for a small child, so it might have been given to another member of the Ellis family.
This object is part of the George Ellis Collection.
Information on the silversmiths' marks courtesy of Sheffield Assay Office.