Meerschaum is found in a handful of places around the world, but the most famous source for the stone is in and around the city of Eskisehir in western Turkey. A porous mineral, meerschaum is soft enough to be carved but hard enough to be polished, revealing the incredible skill of the artisans who began making pipes out of the material in the 18th century. By the late 19th century, an ornately carved meerschaum pipe or cheroot holder was a status symbol for the men who smoked them in their clubs and book-lined studies. But by the end of World War I, fancy meerschaum pipes had been superseded by the clean, geometric look that would become Art Deco.

During its heyday, from roughly the 1870s to the 1920s, pipe makers in Hungary and other Eastern European countries, many of whom were Jews who passed their trade from son to son, transformed blank blocks of white meerschaum into everything from the heads of figures from history and literature to angels in repose and hunters on horseback. Cheroot holders, which have smaller bowls than full pipes, feature some of the most intricate carvings, while cylindrical cigar holders are less detailed due to their small surface area. Some of the most popular subjects of antique meerschaum include depictions of leaders such as Napoleon, knights and noblemen, and sailors, who often appear inebriated, sometimes clutching a bottle as they lean against the pipe's bowl.

Beyond the appeal of their decorations, meerschaum pipes are popular with smokers for the quality of the smoking experience they produce. Unlike pipes made of briar root or cherry, meerschaum does not impart any flavor when smoked (although it must be added that many smokers enjoy the subtle flavors produced when smoking tobacco in a wood pipe). Because meerschaum does not conduct heat well, the bowl is always cool to the touch. And the porosity of meerschaum causes the pipe to change color over time as it used. Thus, the stone, which is carved white, turns a butterscotch brown when transformed into a pipe, filled with tobacco, and smoked, a process that’s frequently hurried along by rubbing a finished pipe with beeswax and sometimes ox blood.

Today meerschaum is not allowed to be exported from Turkey in its raw, block form, which has spurred new generations of carvers there. In many cases, the characters and subjects of contemporary carved meerschaum are positioned between the bowl, which is often left unadorned, and the end of the pipe's stem. Other styles emulate the classical saxophone shape of a large carved bowl attached to a stem that angles up to meet the smoker's mouth. The pipes are considered handsome enough, but in general, the details on contemporary pipes are less ornate and more formulaic than those on their forebears.


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Recent News: Meerschaum Pipes

Source: Google News

Universities aren't so bad
Chippewa Herald, February 20th

Perhaps he huffs disparagingly when, on an afternoon walk down State Street from the Capitol to Library Mall, he sees professors puffing meerschaum pipes and debating whether “The Great Gatsby” is an allegory. Then he sees unemployed burners ...Read more

Bringing Sherlock Holmes Mysteries To Life, One Doorway At A Time
Co.Design, February 20th

Sherlock Holmes's famous address evokes the smell of tobacco, the sound of a violin, and the sight of a meerschaum and a deerstalker cap. Yet the doorstep itself is a thing of fiction: Although it has since been built to capitalize on the fame of the...Read more

Bromley: Universities really aren't so bad, governor
Chippewa Herald, February 18th

Perhaps he huffs disparagingly when, on an afternoon walk down State Street from the Capitol to Library Mall, he sees professors puffing meerschaum pipes and debating whether “The Great Gatsby” is an allegory. Then he sees unemployed burners ...Read more

National Broadband Network reaches outskirts of Alstonville
Northern Star, February 17th

The areas where the NBN has been switched on are at Tuckombil, Dalwood, Meerschaum Vale and areas east of Wardell. Mr Gibbs said it was NBN Co's policy to focus first on delivering services to areas that had the poorest internet connections. So he said ...Read more

Kansas: Let's Give All These Orphans To That Nice Normal Duggar Family
Wonkette (satire) (blog), February 17th

With all the pissing and moaning about the Attack on the Family and the Gay Married, it's nice to see someone finally doing something to actually reinforce traditional family values. If Kansas state Sen. Forrest Knox can't force real families to...Read more

The Speckled Band Really Isn't Much of a Mystery Alas
Houston Press (blog), February 11th

At the end of the 19th century, matinee idol William Gillette brought star quality to Holmes, as well as forever fixing him in our mind with deer stalker hat, meerschaum pipe, and the line Doyle never thought of, "Elementary, my dear fellow." The...Read more

Turning Turkish stone into perfect pipes
Oman Tribune, February 7th

Ender Erdogan is an artist from Turkey who makes delicately crafted pipes out of meerschaum, a special kind of soft, opaque stone that is usually off-white, grey or cream in colour. Most of the meerschaum of commerce is obtained chiefly from the plain...Read more

The Way it Was: Tinderboxes, matches and old-fashioned ways with fire
The-News-Leader, February 3rd

Corncob pipes and meerschaum pipes were at opposite ends of the pipe smoker's choice. Corncobs were about 10 cents each, when meerschams were many times more expensive. After much use, the meerschaums would change color and the surface ...Read more