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 But by the end of World War I, fancy meerschaum pipes had been superseded by the clean, geometric look that would become Art Deco.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

The Allure of Cigarette Holders is Examined in the First Book that is Both a ...
ArtfixDaily, October 7th

Cheroot holder Probably Southeast Europe (possibly Yugoslavia if after 1918), c. 1900-20 Meerschaum 18-karat gold girdle, amber mouthpiece. Courtesy Officina Libraria, photograph by John Bigelow Taylor and Dianne Dubler. Cigarette holder India or ...Read more

Meerschaum Vale Hall's memories to be re-told with art
Northern Star, October 6th

MEERSCHAUM Vale Hall has a proud history, and is one of the oldest community halls in the Ballina shire. Residents said since the school, post office and the church all closed, the hall was the only remaining public place in Meerschaum Vale for the ...Read more

artnet Asks: Designer and Collector Carolyn Hsu-Balcer
artnet News, October 5th

Designer and collector Carolyn Hsu-Balcer's impressive and informative cigarette holder collection will get the recognition that it deserves when her book A Token of Elegance: Cigarette Holders in Vogue hits bookshelves on November 5. The book offers...Read more

BEETHAM: Bernard Scally - a meteor blazing across the sky
Montgomery Newspapers, September 30th

As soon as he walked into the office I knew. His face told me what I had expected. Bernard J. Scally was related to Tim Scally. Tim had worked for The Review some years earlier in the circulation department. He had been a hard worker, but he had a...Read more

Thelma “Lacey” Grider of Ukiah celebrates 101 years
Ukiah Daily Journal, September 25th

On one occasion, Bob Hope thoughtfully gifted her with a Meerschaum pipe that he had picked up on one of his overseas tours. While living there, she met the love of her life, Howard Grider, a successful building contractor. They married and shortly...Read more

REALITY CHECK: Unsolicited comments are the bump on the road to good health, September 17th

So my walks, while ostensibly about health and fitness, are really just an excuse to take in the beautiful scenery out there on the prairie. Also, being out-of-doors gives me someplace to smoke my pipe. That's right, I smoke. It's a nice meerschaum I...Read more

Ones and Sixes
Tiny Mix Tapes (press release), September 14th

You'll be puttering around, carving meerschaum pipes in your workshop, and “Spanish Translation” will have you thinking this is freaking epic! and you'll check the song and see it took 'em less than four minutes to get you to that conclusion...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