In 1985 the Victoria and Albert Museum in London put on a “Good Design Guide” exhibition, a collection of the “100 most beautiful products in the world”. One of those products was the Opinel knife. It also is exhibited by the New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) as a masterpiece of design, alongside other industrial objects which have defied time. The simple design has remained virtually unchanged for a century. Some owners even use their knives as raw materials for their own creative efforts, decorating the wooden handle with pokerwork or carving it into designs of their own invention.
As to the origins of the symbol of the crowned hand, in 1565 King Charles IX of France had ordered every master knife-maker to place an emblem on his products to guarantee their origin and quality. In order to prevent counterfeits, the stamps had to be registered in a ‘safe place’, in the Police Lieutenant’s registry for Paris, at the guild headquarters or the home of the oldest Master or Juror for knife-making centers. They had to be stamped on a slab of copper, lead or silver, as proof of registration and in order to keep an imprint in the event of dispute. Respecting this tradition, Joseph Opinel chose as his emblem "The Crowned Hand”. The right hand, known as a hand raised in blessing, with three fingers straight and two fingers folded, figures on the coat of arms of the town of Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. A silver hand raised in blessing, on an azure background, clad in the same. Since the 6th century, the cathedral has housed a shrine, where the faithful may worship, containing three fingers from the hand of Saint John the Baptist, brought back from Alexandria in Egypt by a young girl from Maurienne, named Thecla. The crown placed above the hand recalls the fact that the Savoie region was once a Duchy.