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Circumcision sets

Italian antique folding circumcision knife and shieldItalian antique
      folding circumcision knife Judaica Jewish Italian antique folding circumcision knife and shield
        Judaica Jewish
To the left and above are a rather rare folding circumcision knife and a matching shield. The original gilding is still present.  The set is from Italy, 19th century.  

          circumcision knife, shield and powder box, 18th centuryNetherlands circumcision
          knife, shield and powder box, 18th centuryTo the right is an exquisite 18th century circumcision set from the Netherlands. The case is leather-bound. The knife's blade is one-sided. The powder box is hinged. 

J & D Miller circumcision knife and shieldTo the left is a knife, box and shield from J. & D. Miller. During the early 20th century brothers Joseph and David Miller ran a cutlery shop at 25 Canal Street, New York City. They made the finest knives for Jewish ritual use--for circumcision as well as for slaughtering poultry and cattle.

The above knife is unique because it appears to have a wooden handle. It does not have the typical mother-of-pearl handle as seen on the J. &. D. Miller knife below, which is from another person's collection.

J & D Miller

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. The circumcision knife and shield are at the top left.  The other knives are for poultry and cattle slaughter. More information about the Millers can be found in this newsletter on page 8.
Miller knife

Below is a Polish knife and shield set, late 1800s.  The knife handle is made of ivory.  The case is leather.
      setCircumcision shield from
      setCircumcision knife from

Circumcision setThe seller attributed the boxed set on the right to circa 1900, Poland.  The box is made of carved wood.

The set below features very exquisite work in mother of pearl. There is a mid-19th century box with an intricate inlaid floral design. The wonderful design is continued in the knife handle, shield and accessories.

A set like this is truly unique. Experts were at odds regarding its origin--is it a very rare example of Judaica from India, or is it an example of mother of pearl work from 19th century Jerusalem?

Alas, a set like this is truly. . .fake. The strongest clue is the shield. A mother of pearl shield would never stand up to real use, and genuine Judaica was meant to be used.

Many thanks to Kevin Tierney at Sotheby's New York for his assistance.
Circumcision set, mother of pearl
Circumcision set, mother of pearlCircumcision set, mother of pearl

Circumcision setThis is another circumcision set from Poland, estimated to be from the late 1800s.  The knife and plate are engraved with a fish, a symbol of fertility.

Below, an Israeli eBay auctioneer sold this silver knife and shield set, circa 1920.

Circumcision setCircumcision set

The same auctioneer sold a knife and shield set in a wooden box, pictured below.  He claimed that the set was from Germany, 19th century.

There are two problems with this set.  First, the knife, while beautiful with its mother-of-pearl handle, has a faint stamp on the blade which reads "Hausmann, New Orleans."  The Hausmann family operated a jewelry store in New Orleans from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.  Second, the shield pictured in the auction was not the same shield that was sent to me.  Live and learn!
            setCircumcision setHausmann's Jewelers, New

Below is a fine silver circumcision set from Birmingham, England, 1923.  The hallmarks identify the makers as Cornelius Saunders and Francis Shepard.  The knife has a mother-of-pearl handle.
              circumcision setSilver circumcision setCircumcision
              shield from setCircumcision knife from set

The next section features some thought-provoking circumcision cups.  This section also touches upon the controversial metzitzah b'peh.  Please click the button below.

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Copyright 2006-2018, Robert Lehrer, MD