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 But by the end of World War I, fancy meerschaum pipes had been superseded by the clean, geometric look that would become Art Deco.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

Nature Journal: Dutchman's pipe & its insect prison
Asheville Citizen-Times, May 27th

Pretty soon you'll spot a pod-like object dangling on a short thin stem that resembles one of the large-bowled curved Meerschaum pipes old gentlemen in the Netherlands are always depicted smoking. The three-flanged petals (actually sepals) of this odd ...Read more

William Gillette Restored To Life On Film
Hartford Courant, May 26th

Gillette, who built his idiosyncratic castle in 1914 on the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam, created the iconic image of the famed detective: the deerstalker hat, the meerschaum pipe and ornate dressing gown. He is also credited with...Read more

Govt rejects Ballina's bid to control private logging
Echonetdaily, May 24th

He said PNF was an emerging activity in the Bagotville, Meerschaum Vale, Wardell, Coolgardie and the broader Blackwall Range localities. He said those areas had been identified by the council as ecologically significant, important from a scenic amenity ...Read more

'We smoked our pipes and took our ease'
Yale Alumni Magazine (blog), May 21st

Every imaginable size and shape of pipe was on display, from corncobs and classic clay pipes, to a variety of traditional briars, to a Sherlock Holmes–style calabash and a yellowed meerschaum pipe so delicate the smoker wore gloves so as not to stain...Read more

Read an Excerpt From 'A Handful of Dust' (WSJ Book Club)
Wall Street Journal (blog), May 13th

for his wedding and twenty- first birthday, ivory, brass bound, covered in pigskin, crested and gold mounted, suggestive of expensive Edwardian masculinity — racing flasks and hunting flasks, cigar cases, tobacco jars, jockeys, elaborate...Read more

Elegant pipe made of meerschaum
Waterloo Record, March 28th

A. The body of your friend's pipe is made of meerschaum, a form of magnesium silicate found primarily in Turkey. Its cool, dry nature made it an ideal material for pipe bowls and cigarette holders. As you see, it becomes coloured with time and use...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles: Meerschaum pipe bowl is a special heirloom
Press of Atlantic City, March 20th

Answer: The item shown in your photo appears to be an antique Meerschaum - German for sea foam - pipe bowl. Meerschaum, a soft, light, porous mineral mined in Turkey, is naturally white but gradually shades to yellow, amber, then brown or deep red as a ...Read more

Inside The World's Only Corn Cob Pipe Factory, Missouri Meerschaum
St. Louis Public Radio, March 26th

The Missouri Meerschaum factory in Washington, Mo., is the only place in the world that manufactures corn cob pipes made famous by such historical figures as Mark Twain and General Douglas MacArthur. Sales at the company have grown over the last two ...Read more