Circumcision knives (Hebrew: אזמל izmel)
silver filigree knife was my first purchase. It was
listed as Russian, circa 1900. The blade is stamped "84"
and "AC." The handle is inscribed with three Hebrew
dalet, and shin. The seller
was from Poland.
This knife on the right has an ivory handle.
It was listed as a "very old circumcision knife." The
blade is steel. The handle has a Hebrew inscription
that is hard to read. I think it spells brit milah. The
seller was from Poland.
This knife has some similarities to the last
one. Its handle is also ivory. The blade is
iron and brass. The seller listed the knife as
Polish, either 18th or 19th century.
This is a stunning Polish
silver circumcision knife. The markings are early
19th century. The silver-gilt cylindrical handle
is adorned with filigree. There is a foliate
The knife on the right weighs a
substantial 45 grams due to the quartz handle. It
measures 15 centimeters. The silver filigree work
is exquisite. Its origin is likely Germany or
Poland, c. 1720 to 1780.
knife on the left was sold by a Scandinavian antiques
dealer. The close-up photo below it highlights the
beautiful gilding and filigree work. The knife is
likely Swedish, from the 17th or 18th century.
Many thanks to the kind British gentleman who offered
CircCentral this knife and silver shield from his
grandfather's Judaica collection.
To the right is yet another exquisite
knife with a filigree handle. The knife is likely
Polish and from the early 18th century.
is a 19th century circumcision knife from Central
Europe. The handle is made of agate, and the blade
is of forged steel. The finial and bolster are
Although the other knives on this page have double-sided
blades, this knife's blade is sharpened on just one
side. The agate handle makes this knife a bit
heavier than the others.
A Brooklyn auction house listed the knife below as a "very
old circumcision knife, most likely Sephardic in
origin." I was told the handle is gilded
silver. On two sides of the handle are Hebrew
inscriptions which are too worn to read. On the
other two sides are floral decorations.
discovered that a different auction house sold what
appears to be the exact same knife (along with a shield)
six months prior. In that listing, the knife was
described as brass, Eastern European, mid-19th
knife on the right was listed as a "1950 miniature mohel
knife from a well-known factory in Israel." The
original silver plating has worn off the handle.
The handle has a manufacturer's mark. The blade is
To the left is a
circa 1890 circumcision knife. Its handle is
mother-of-pearl. The knife is marked on the
handle: H. PAPE/*ACHFL. It has a fitted
kind person wrote to me about her shochet (butcher)
knife marked with the same inscription. A
little research revealed that this knife is from H.
Pape Nachfl., a company that was located in Memel, East
Prussia (now Klaipeda, Lithuania
Below is a circumcision knife marked G. Grunewald,
another late 1800s model.
found the ad to the right in a 1914 phone
directory. G. Grunewald was a surgical supply
company in Königsberg,
East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia).
To the right is a knife marked simply Grunewald,
likely from the late 1800s. It has a steel blade
and an ivory handle. It is unclear if G. Grunewald
and Grunewald are the same company.
Underneath and to the left are two similar knives from
other collections. The first is another knife
from Grunewald and shows the knife blade prior to repeated
use and sharpening. This knife is pictured on the Phisick website. Phisick is a
wonderful collection of medical antiques. The
second knife is from J. & D. Miller in New York.
The 1920s sign below is at the National
Museum of American History (Smithsonian, Washington,
DC). Joseph and David Miller displayed the sign in
their knife shop at 25 Canal Street, New York City.
The circumcision knife and shield are at the top
left. The other knives are for poultry and cattle
Here's a lesson: because the knife below resembles a
circumcision knife, a Swedish antiques dealer contacted
Intrigued, I purchased the knife from him. Once I
received the knife, I noticed a few things that seemed out
of place--the embossing on the blade and the rounded
corners of the blade where it meets the handle.
These are not typical of circumcision knives.
I posted a photo on a knife discussion forum and quickly
received an answer from knife expert Bernard
This is a Swedish paper knife, used in the 1800s
and early 1900s to fold letters and cut open the pages of
new books. It is a substantial knife, 7-3/4 inches
long, with a nice ivory handle. The embossing, worn
with age, is a nice, intricate design.
I'll sell it if someone is interested. Please
contact me at CircCentral
yahoo dot com.
The mohel uses a circumcision shield (Hebrew: מָגֵן
magen) to assist in removing the foreskin. Click the
button below to see some examples of circumcision shields.
Robert Lehrer, MD