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 But by the end of World War I, fancy meerschaum pipes had been superseded by the clean, geometric look that would become Art Deco.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

Naipaul And The Sikhs Of Argentina
Outlook, July 27th

He was then taken to an isolated hut in the middle of nowhere (a police outpost), where he took out his meerschaum pipe and sat on a bench and lost track of time while the cops made their phone calls. He could see torture in the "smiling eyes of the...Read more

Hiking guide covers Oregon Coast from top to bottom
The Register-Guard, July 25th

The quirky and original player traits and spry and dirty dialogue (not just dirty as in profane, but dusty, worn-in and well-used — genuine) that populate Davis' West are certainly worthy of a raise of the old Missouri Meerschaum pipe in acknowledgement...Read more

Dawn at Ceres: A haze in Occator crater?
The Planetary Society (blog), July 21st

After my exhaustive search of all possible magnesium silicate minerals, there is a very high probability that the crusting material is actually sepiolite (Meerschaum). It is a very porous and soft mineral that can float on water. It also can stick...Read more

A new Sherlock Holmes fights to hold on to everything
Buffalo.com, July 15th

Mr. Holmes doesn't smoke a meerschaum pipe. He prefers cigars. He never wore a deerstalker cap either. That, he says, was a fantasy of the illustrator of the books put out by his friend John Watson. Holmes usually opts for a black silk top hat when he...Read more

5 generals with some of the weirdest habits in military history
We Are The Mighty, July 13th

The outsized pipe was good for show but difficult to smoke, so Missouri Meerschaum gave the general other pipes to use for his pleasure. Missouri Meerschaum continues to craft replicas of MacArthur's customized pipe, and Ray-Ban named a sunglass line ...Read more

Can the Man Behind Sherlock and Doctor Who Be Saved from Himself?
Vanity Fair, July 10th

The Gallifreyan T.A.R.D.I.S., the villainous Daleks, and the deerstalkers and meerschaum pipes of Baker Street are woven so deeply into the fabric of British—and increasingly American—pop culture that it's astonishing to consider that since 2010 one...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