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 But by the end of World War I, fancy meerschaum pipes had been superseded by the clean, geometric look that would become Art Deco.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

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Match World

Match World

This ambitious site showcases the 20,000-item Rankei Library matchbook collection, owned by the Japan Match Manufac… [read review or visit site]

Kensitas Silk Flowers

Kensitas Silk Flowers

Don Wearmouth and his wife showcase the 230 beautiful silk designs that were distributed free with Kensitas cigaret… [read review or visit site]

Matchbox Labels

Matchbox Labels

Jane McDevitt's huge Flickr photoset of matchbox labels, primarily Eastern European, from the 1950s and 60s. These … [read review or visit site]

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

This gallery of cigarette magazine advertising from the 1940s and 50s contains no surgeon general's warning, just p… [read review or visit site]

Matchbook Museum

Matchbook Museum

James Lileks' gallery of 400 matchbooks from coffee shops, hotels, motels, bars, banks, restaurants and more. Lilek… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique "wdc Genuine Meerschaum" Femme Fatale Pipe In Custom Case Amber StemLot Of Estate Pipes Sherlock Holmes-style Calabash Smoking Meerschaum SmokingAntique Cased Amber And Carved Meerschaum Pipe In Form Of Ladies HeadLot Of 11 Vintage Estate Smoking Tobacco Pipes Meerschaum Willard Briar GranitanVintage Clean Estate Find Dunhill Shell Briar Tobacco Smoking Pipe EnglandAntique Meerschaum Femme Fatale Pipe In Custom Case Ornate Amber StemPeterson Meerschaum Pipe Sherlock Holmes "the Watson"Vintage Peterson Meerschaum Estate Pipe In Superb Rarely Used ConditionAntique Victorian Era Meerschaum Cutty Estate Pipe Vintage Smoking W/ Case Nice Peterson Block Meerschaum 6 Tawny Straight Billiard Estate PipeAntique Victorian Era Meerschaum Cutty Estate Pipe Vintage Smoking W/ Case S.yanik Meerschaum Pipe "bone Leg Pirate Skull" Large Very Nice Quality!Cased Silver Top & Band Meerschaum Pipe Amber Stem Birmingham 1901Beautiful Large Calabash Pipe * Detailed Carving On Meerschaum Bowl !!!Vintage Meerschaum Large Gourd Pipe Calabash Sherlock Holmes Vintge Pipe Lot Meerschaum Ehrlich Sterling HallRare Antique Carved Meerschaum Buffalo Estate Pipe Smoking Tobacco Vintage ArtAntique Meerschaum Wdc Hand Carved Pile On Case Stag / Deer In Forest 4 7/8"Calabash Pipe With Meerschaum Bowl Vintage Sherlock Holmes Style Sms - Winston Churchill With Cigar - Vintage Meerschaum Estate Pipe & CaseVintage Large Sherlock Holmes-calabash-gourd Meerschaum Pipe *andreas Bauer* Blockmeerschaum Without CaseAndreas Bauer Meerschaum & Genuine Amber Estate Pipe W/ Original Case Olie Sylvester Zombie 49 Monstrosity Meerschaum Pipe In Case Very Htf UnsmokedVintage Tanganyika Block Meerschaum Pipe - EstateVtg Meerschaum Pipe Bowl Lot Figural Carved In Case Horse Birds Estate SmokedA Wonderful Antique Meerschaum Bacchus Pipe. With Great Patina. Lovingly Used.Meerschaum Pipe "turkish Nobleman" Master Carved Fm Block Case & Brass Stand Antique Carved Meerschaum & Amber Cheroot Holder.Meerschaum Pipe "turkish Aristocrat" Block Carved W/leather Case & Brass StandLot Of 2 Tobacco Pipes Mastercraft Meerschaum #241Fantastic Peterson's Block Of Meerschaum Estate Pipe,pipa,pfeife,pijp Fantastic Huge Block Meerschaum Intricately Carved Pipe In Hard Leather Case NewMeerschaum Pipe "peasant Sheep Herder" Black Leather Case & Brass Stand Incl. Antique Meerschaum Pipe - Unusual! Antique "wdc Genuine" Meerschaum Pipe Horse & Dog Scene Custom Case Amber StemPeterson Meerschaum Pipe - Intricately Carved 1983(?)Fancy Vintage Carved Wings Meerschaum Estate Pipe Smoking W/case MonogrammedSet Of 2 Vintage Charatan's Make Deluxe Smoking Pipes In Good ConditionCalabash Pipe With A Meerschaum Bowl.Antique Cased Amber Meerschaum Hallmarked Silver Cigarette HolderAntique Meerschaum Amber Pipe Dog Head Écume Ambre Pfeife Hundekopf BernsteinVintage Medico " Seafoam" Meerschaum Lined Dublin Shaped Briar PipeAltinok Meershaum Medet Pipe New With BoxOld Meerschaum Pipe Kaiser Wilhelm German Cross J. Woythaler 1916Antique Meerschaum Pipe Case Bull Dogs German Hand Carved Bernstein Tobacco DollMeerschaum Pipe With Case, Sterling Band, Vintage2 Vintage Estate Meerschaum Tobacco PipesAntique Meerschaum Pipe In Original Case Unusual Design Circa 1890Freehand Hat Model Meerschaum Smoking Tobacco Pipe Pfeife Pipa Handmade UnusedNew Missouri Meerschaum "legend - 5th Avenue" Corn Cob Pipe 6mm Filtered BentUltra Rare Late 1940's Kaywoodie Block Meerschaum Bent--well-colored & Pristine!Vintage Beautiful Large 16" Carved Block Meerschaum Smoking Pipe W/ Case & StandUnique Mixed Metal Water Pipe ?turkishVintage, 'caveman, Genuine Amboseli Block Meerschaum Pipe, From Arusha, TanzaniaA Fine Vintage Hand Carved Meerschaum Pipe In Original Case.Fabulous Genuine M.l.c Meerschaum Smoking Pipe With Fitted CaseVintage Meershaum Sultan's Head PipeVintage Carved Figure Meerschaum Tobacco Estate PipeMeerschaum Pipe With Fitted Case

Recent News: Meerschaum Pipes

Source: Google News

Auditions set for Sherlock Homes mystery August 18 & 19
Connectcut Plus, August 16th

Sherlock. Much like one-name celebrities Cher, Beyonce or Madonna, say Sherlock to anyone almost anywhere in the world, and there's immediate recognition. Say the name Sherlock and they'll immediately think of the meerschaum pipe-smoking fictional ...Read more

3 Questions for Hampton Sides, Author of In the Kingdom of Ice
Everyday ebook, August 12th

Hampton Sides's work as a magazine editor and reporter has sent him all over the world; his books, including the best-seller Ghost Soliders, set during World War II, have taken him across the twentieth century. But for his latest epic, In the Kingdom...Read more

Dan Hunter: Case worthy of a certain detective
New Zealand Herald, August 4th

Holmes lit his meerschaum, and exhaled noisily towards the ceiling. "I vaguely recall the author. A hack." "Well, that's as may be. This lawyer cove said that 50 of your so-called hack's stories had fallen into the public domain, which apparently means...Read more

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Disappearing Copyright
The Conversation, July 30th

Holmes lit his meerschaum, and exhaled noisily towards the ceiling. “I vaguely recall the author. A hack.” “Well, that's as may be. This lawyer cove said that 50 of your so-called hack's stories had fallen into the public domain, which apparently means...Read more

Not what we planned (3): Red fairy chimneys and black amber
Today's Zaman, July 30th

We shook the dust of Horasan from our feet, we jumped into our young doctor nephew's car the morning after our arrival, and we didn't wave bye-bye; I'm sure there are plenty of fine folk there, but we didn't have time to get to know them. Our hosts...Read more