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Welcome to Thiers: A Brief History of the Capital of Cutlery

By Team Made In
May 18, 2019
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French food wouldn’t be the same without one city’s incredible impact. Here’s a look at everything there is to know about Thiers, France, the knife-making capital of the world.

Located in Auvergne in central France, Thiers often takes a back seat to bigger names like Paris, Nice, Marseille or Bordeaux. But among top culinary gurus, this charming commune is synonymous with one thing: knife making. As the so-called ‘home’ of cutlery, Thiers manufactures as high as 80% of all common kitchen and pocket knives boasting the coveted ‘Made in France’ etching.

So, what’s so special about this knife-making hotspot? What’s the story on its early and recent history, and are there any unique foods or spirits belonging to this blade-loving town? In celebrating the sensational country of France, we’re breaking down all there is to know and love about Thiers.

Thiers 101: A brief history

Similar to what we call a municipality in America, Thiers is in the Puy-de-Dôme ‘department’ of Auvergne, located smack in the middle of France. Although its origins go all the way back to Roman times, the city didn’t gain its various claims to fame until well into the Middle Ages.

Beginning in the 10th century, folks settled in the region, building up the village square with a castle, church and other essential ‘Medieval’ town things you might expect (just picture the dreamy Jon Snow, or a Mel Gibson in Braveheart war paint buzzing about the village). Hundreds of years later, Thiers still retains those centuries-old religious landmarks and that signature ‘Medieval’ feel, attracting tons of tourists each year.

Forging a new identity

But we’ll be clear: Thiers isn’t exactly renowned for its elaborate architecture, expansive fortresses or awe-inspiring cathedrals like other cities in France. The ‘oohs and aahs’ are usually reserved for Notre Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre. Instead, the city’s rich history has become inextricably intertwined with early settlers’ insane predilection for all things pointy. That is, knives (more on that later!).

Through the French Revolution and beyond, Thiers literally forged its own distinct personality and character, becoming famous in France for reasons only a chef could love. Today, Michelin Travel continues to compile their best recommendations for vacationers venturing to Thiers. Among the ‘Top 19 Thiers Attractions’ in 2018 is the Valley of Factories, Cutlery Museum and more.

By the way, have you read our in-depth breakdown of the best knife regions in the world featuring none other than Thiers? It’s worth a look!

A district driven by food

For over seven centuries, Thiers has dominated the arena of French knife making, perfecting everything from the boy scout’s common pocketknife to today’s finest professional chef knives. But the region’s artisans didn’t appear overnight. In fact, they’ve been honing their craft for generations.

Here are some of the most intriguing aspects of Thiers’ role in cultivating the world’s most esteemed cutlery products.

French Knives Fast Facts

  • Historians pinpoint the beginning of Thiers’ blade-friendly fascination somewhere around 1300 AD
  • For the next few centuries, watermills on the banks of the Durolle River provided the necessary energy to power the forgeries’ mechanics
  • The popularity of the Thiers pocketknife is credited to the late reign of Louis XIV, when men started acting like ‘gentleman’
  • Industrialization reached the region by the 19th century, allowing small shops to flourish and ship their wares all across the world in massive quantities
  • Today, Thiers street names pay homage to the town’s knife-making history, including Rue de la Coutellerie (Cutlery Street), Rue des Usines (Factories Street) and more

For more useful (and awesomely useless) facts about the city’s storied history, check out this BBC travel writer’s article describing his ‘chronic knife-geekery’ among other revelations when traveling to Thiers.

Great chef knives, great food

With all those high-end fully forged knives and generations of French culinary tradition, there’s bound to be some good food in Thiers. As expected, the city itself boasts some fabulous cuisine. While no one particular dish or drink stands out, our research reveals the same ‘out-of-this-world’ French preparation every foodie has come to know and love about this region of the world.

If you plan to travel to Thiers or want to toast to this special locale stateside, consider incorporating some amazing ingredients from the region. We have a few ideas to get you started.

Best Food & Drink in Thiers

  1. Appetizer – Charcuterie

Since the Auvergne region is renowned for its Saint-Nectaire, Bleu d’Auvergne, Salers and other artisanal cheeses, no ode to Thiers would be complete without a proper charcuterie board. Here’s a simple DIY cheese board recipe you can easily adapt based on what’s available in your corner of the world.

Want more cheesy tips? Check out our full French cheeses article!

  1. Aperitif – Gentian Liqueur

Made from the yellow gentian flower, this before-dinner (or anytime) cordial is known as the ‘flavor of Auvergne.’ Bitter, boozy, yet still light and smooth, gentian liqueur has become the darling of hipster bartenders all over the nation.

  1. Entrée – Coq au Vin de Chanturgue

Using a chicken or rooster, carrots, onion, olive oil, pancetta, butter and some other small fixings, the Consulate General of France in Boston brings us a delectable take on the French classic. To elevate this dish to ‘Thiers’ level, this coq au vin recipe uses a luscious red Chanturgue wine from the Auvergne region.

Hope you enjoyed your stay in Thiers! We’ve got other Made In guides to France (and everywhere) coming soon.

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