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Meerschaum Pipes

Just in this week a stunning example of a 19th century Meerschaum smoking pipe.

Meerschaum has been called as White Goddess, Venus of the Sea, Sea Foam or froth. If you Google “Meerschaum” you will discover that it can be found floating in the Red Sea, this is false as Meerschaum is in fact mined.

It is mined in Kenya, but the quality is questionable, it is also found between 20 and 450 feet beneath the earth in Anatolia, Turkey where it is found in sufficient quality and quantity.

It is not certain how Meerschaum came to be used for pipes, but one story tells of an 18th century chess match between a Hungarian Count and the Sultan. As the Sultan lost three games, he gave the count two (some reports say three) lumps of Meerschaum, a diamond encrusted dagger and two slave girls.

On his return home the Count gave the two (or three) lumps of Meerschaum to a local cobbler and part time pipe maker who made one pipe for himself and one for the Count and so began the manufacture of pipes from this heatproof, robust but workable mineral – the cobblers pipe is allegedly now in The National Museum of Budapest.

This pipe in its original velvet lined, leather covered wooden case dates from between 1880 and 1900, we can tell this from the style of the lady’s hat and her hairstyle.

The bowl of the pipe is attached via a fine thread to an amber stem which unfortunately is broken.

We bought this piece from a lady who remembers her grandfather using it – a lasting remainder that most people over 45 in this country have been bought up by people who were bought up by either Victorians or Edwardians, how times have changed.

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