Letter openers are a fairly common staple feature of many offices and studies. A letter opener, also referred to as a paper knife, can be used not only to open envelopes, but also to slit uncut pages of books.

Contemporary television dramas and the more famous ending to Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech, give the letter opener the more diverse use to imitate the act of death by plunging the blade into torsos and chest cavities. Even more dramatic, an assassination attempt was made on Martin Luther King Jr’s life with a letter opener. He was stabbed in the chest at a book signing in 1958, requiring incredibly delicate surgery to remove the letter opener.

Some Examples

With these interesting purposes in mind, the hunt for the perfect letter opener can be complicated due to the variety of shapes in which they are crafted: conventionally a blunt plain blade, with additional features such as a decorative handle and even hilt.

Due to the nature and structure of the item, many have been known to use a meat skewer as a form of paper knife. This use for the paper knife has likely led to some of the designs being animals that have historically been hunted, such as foxes.

The Craftsmanship

Meat skewers

Dagger letter opener

A single material or sometimes a combination of materials can be used to make each piece unique and ornamental; materials such as wood, metal, and even ivory can be used as a core to which further decorate measures can be added. A lot of paper knives have handles crafted from different woods, sometimes carved mother of pearl, or even just a different metal.

With the name ‘paper knife’, it only seems fitting that a dagger would be created; a blunt blade with a bulbous grip and decorative hilt. This piece is made even more impressive by the cairngorm/smokey topaz incorporated into the terminal. A fantastic item not only as a conversation starter but for adding antique style to functional everyday items.

Crafted from a single piece of silver and then embellished with a textured gilded handle, this innovative letter opener takes the word ‘ornamental’ into a new realm; sitting proud to the desk and taking a feather quill style form, this large piece is a true representation of the iconic style and diverse design of Stuart Devlin’s work.

The contemporary world is becoming more occupied by electronic gadgets. The paper knife is a call back to an older time, allowing the user to take a break from the overwhelming presence of electronics.

The antique and vintage alternatives are only more aesthetically pleasing and frequently more creative, but also simplistic and elegant in their simplicity

Devlin letter opener

If you require any information about items mentioned here, or wish for some further ornamental office gift ideas, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Written by

Rachel O'Keefe-Coulson

Rachel O’Keefe-Coulson is also known as AC Silver’s ‘Silver Lady’. Rachel spends her days handling antique silverware and processing these items for display on the AC Silver website. Rachel will enlighten our readers with posts of a silver theme.