Originally Posted by Poppinfresh
OK, look at the handle of the Twin Cuisin knife. See that streak of steel that runs the length of it, with a weight of it at the back of the knife? That's a tang. Tangs are essentially pushed into the handles of the knives. They help with balance and durability. Rivets are just the little circular pieces of metal you see in other knives.
Oftentimes (like with the Pro S series a poster above was talking about) the rivets are just decorative. I'm not a big fan of those either, as I don't like the feel of "cold spots", but that's a personal thing. Knives with functional rivets, however...they don't last as long. The rivets come loose, the handle starts to fall apart, they don't provide proper balance, etc. It's just ugly
As a knife collector, I disagree with you very strongly.
The tang and the blade are opposite ends of the single piece of metal from which the knife is made. The tang is the part of the metal to which the handle is attached. The longer and wider and thicker the tang, the stronger the knife; a "full tang" knife, meaning one with a tang the length and width of the handle, is preferred (you can see the metal around the entire edge of the handle).
The scales, which are the pieces of wood or plastic or other material that cover the tang, can be attached to the knife in any of several ways, but rivets are among the strongest and most durable. They're not merely decorative. Rivetless handles are often just plastic that's molded around a short, narrow tang -- they're cheaper to make and far less durable.
Here's a photo of a good knife blank, in this case a Linder Special Yukon Bowie knife from Germany. Note the holes for the rivets to pass through.
Here's the finished knife, which retails for $185.00: