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Learn More About Victorian Fish Cutlery

Specific cutlery for eating fish evolved in the early 19th century. In 1838 a book of etiquette noted that, 'in first rate society, silver knives are now beginning to be used for fish: a very pleasing, as well as decided step in the progress of refinement.' People no longer used steel knives and forks, as the steel was said to react with acids in the fish sauces and taint the flavor of the food. Fish knives and forks were commonly called 'fish eaters' or 'fish-eating knives and forks'.

The complicated dining etiquette of the Victorian era encouraged the development of specific utensils for eating particular foods. The proper use of cutlery formed an important and often lengthy section in all the etiquette manuals. As the century progressed, the rules for the use of some cutlery changed, reflecting the refinements that began to differentiate the manners and status of 'old' and 'new' money. The development of fish eaters is a good example of this. Even until the 1880s, most etiquette manuals recommended that fish be eaten using two ordinary table forks or one fork and a piece of bread. As 'fish eaters' became en vogue during the mid 1800s, middle-class families bought the newly developed utensils, as a means to display their disposable income and demonstrate their place in society.

Fish knives and forks that matched the traditional table cutlery pattern did not become popular until the late 19th century. Earlier fish knives and forks had been made with elaborately engraved blades with rare handles of ivory, mother-of-pearl or later ivorine.!tab Ivorine is a name often given to celluloid. Celluloid was invented in 1862 and is generally regarded to be the first thermoplastic. It was useful for creating less costly jewelry, jewelry boxes, hair accessories and many items that would earlier have been manufactured from ivory, horn or other expensive animal products. It was often referred to as "Ivorine" or "French Ivory". It was also used for dressing table sets, dolls, picture frames, charms, hat pins, buttons, buckles, stringed instrument parts, fountain pens, cutlery handles and kitchen items. Items made in celluloid are collectible today and increasingly rare in good condition. Celluloid is still used today for the production of table tennis balls and guitar picks.

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