Pair of bronze shears, allegedly from northeastern Turkey, 2nd century AD. Pair of bronze shears, allegedly from northeastern Turkey, 2nd century AD. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 39.2.2.

The earliest textiles and threads were probably cut with sharp stones and later with fine, stone blades, such as those made of flint. The next stage in the development of equipment for cutting thread and cloth was the introduction of metal shears (sometimes called spring scissors). This appears to have taken place by the second or first millennium BC in Southwest Asia

The early shears were often made of bronze.  Shears consist of two blades connected by a thin, curved strip of metal that acts as a spring. The strip serves to bring the blades together in a spring action when the blades are squeezed.

Although shears are still used at the beginning of the twenty-first century for cutting wool from sheep (sheep shearing), in general shears have been replaced by the use of scissors, another type of cutting tool. Sometimes, however, the word shear is used as a synonym for scissors.

It should be noted that the English word shear is still used in connection with very large scissors (for instance tailor’s shears) used for cutting cloth, etc.


    • CLABBURN, Pamela (1976). The Needleworker’s Dictionary, London: Macmillan London Ltd, p. 235.
    • HAYWARD, Maria (2012). 'Shears', in: Gale Owen-Crocker, Elizabeth Coatsworth and Maria Hayward (eds.),

 Encyclopedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles of the British Isles, 450-1450

    . Leiden: Brill, pp. 508-509.
  • Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: ‘Shears’.

Metropolitan Museum of Art online catalogue (retrieved 22 June 2016).


Last modified on Wednesday, 05 October 2016 10:51
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