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 But by the end of World War I, fancy meerschaum pipes had been superseded by the clean, geometric look that would become Art Deco.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

Ballina to address private forestry concerns
Echonetdaily, December 15th

'This is of concern as council has consistently identified native vegetation in the Bagotville, Meerschaum Vale, Wardell, Coolgardie and broader Blackwall Range localities as ecologically significant and important from a scenic amenity perspective,' he...Read more

Edgar Wayne Hempleman
Helena Independent Record, December 7th

Dad so enjoyed Montana -- from tying flies to catching fish with his creations to grilling Montana beef on the BBQ out back, even in the snow while smoking one of his meerschaum pipes. He took us ice skating at the pond in Gibson Park in Great Falls...Read more

Antiques & Collectibles:
Post-Bulletin, December 5th

Snow globes or water globes date back to France during the 1800s and originally were used as paperweights containing snow made of porcelain and china chips, bone fragments, ground rice, metal flakes, treated wax or a mineral called meerschaum...Read more

Council May Exempt Vapor Shops From Smoking Law
The Missourian, December 5th

Up until now, Piontek said, the only exemptions granted were for a hookah lounge, which may not sell food or drinks under the act, and for a small testing room at the Missouri Meerschaum Corn Cob Pipe factory. If the council approved a request from the ...Read more

MEMORY LANE: Church Street had the lot at Christmas
Hartlepool Mail, December 3rd

Andrew C Watt, at number 20, offered a “smoker's gift guide”, ranging from lighters by Ronson and Colibri, to Meerschaum pipes at 105 shillings (£5.25). Morelands, at number 19, claimed to have the town's largest selection of purses and wallets, as...Read more

Hundreds mourn Meerschaum Vale teen killed in bike crash
Northern Star, December 15th

The 18-year old Meerschaum Vale-raised man, having recently completed a successful first year on a scholarship at the Australian Defence Force Academy, died on December 7 following a motorbike accident on the Kings Highway between the South Coast ...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

Faces of Kaleiçi: (3) The Waning Art of Meerschaum Carving
Today's Zaman, April 16th

For those who missed the first two installments of this series, Kaleiçi is a district in the original walled city of Antalya. Its narrow, stone-paved streets, often no more than lanes, meander with no apparent design. With twists and turns they lead...Read more