Thiers and the surroundings: 7 centuries of cutlery
Thiers is located on the side of the Forez mountains at the heart of a beautiful region of France. Its main river is the Durolle: this one is decisive for the development of the cutlery in this region. Over the centuries, this cutlery was updated and spread to cities nearby: Saint-Rémy-sur-Durolle became an important place of French cutlery.
The origin of this specialization goes back to the Middle Ages: according to a legend, crusaders from Auvergne, for the 1st Crusade would have brought secrets of manufacturing from the East; actually, Thiers metallurgy goes back to 14th century. For instance, Charles VI (king of France) sent a letter to a cutlery maker in 1460. In 1567, a census could confirm the 170 cutlery makers existence. In 1582, King Henri III created status of trade associations. This charter introduced the obligation for the makers to stamp their work. But it didn’t prevent counterfeit to appear a few years later. The cutlery development allowed the city to export its products, from the 16th century in Spain, Lombary and the Netherlands.
Blades of all shapes went through the grindstones, activated by the Durolle river. Nonetheless, cutlers’ work has been updated and we can’t see anymore the grinder, lying on the floor with his dogs to keep him warm. Today, Thiers is the French capital of cutlery. The surroundings even has its own knife: Le Thiers, symbol of the know-how.
PHOTO OF THE LEAD TABLE OF 1591
In 1591, an engraved table is created in Thiers: hallmarks of the makers were put on a metal plaque, available in Thiers cutlery museum. This table is stored in a solid wooden box closed with 5 locks. Each key was kept by one of the five cutlery makers called “the keepers”. ARBALETE brand appeared on the table in 1591. In the 18th century, Thiers was the largest cutlery bassin in France. The geographical situation of the city and the Durolle river were key elements for the development of cutlery activity. About ten water mills along the river produced the famous Thiers blade. That’s why the Durolle Valley bears the same name of “Rouets Valley”.
In 1810, under Napoleon Ist, a new table was made in Thiers. It’s called “Silver table”.. Today, this latter is available in Thiers museum and you can also find ARBALETE brand. During the Industrial Revolution, the city hired 15 000 people who worked in the cutlery. The division of labor appeared. Some made handles, others casted horn handles, blades etc.
Arbalète G. David was among the factories which flourished at this time. At the same time, cutleries from all over France territory and even from Europe came to produce their knives at Thiers, European capital of cutlery.
Today, specialized in productions always more qualitative, Thiers, major place of international cutlery, organizes each year the International Trade Fair of Art Knife “Coutellia”. The only school of cutlery in France is situated here. At least, since 1995, cutlery makers from Thiers has been united for a common project: the creation and the development of “Le Thiers” knife, symbol of their knowledge.
View of Thiers city from Thiers mountains