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 But by the end of World War I, fancy meerschaum pipes had been superseded by the clean, geometric look that would become Art Deco.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

New Bar, Restaurant to Open on Front Street
The Missourian, January 22nd

Marc Houseman, director of the Washington Historical Society Museum, said Tibbe was responsible for bringing both electricity and telephone service to Washington in the 1890s. Houseman said Tibbe also owned the Missouri Meerschaum Company...Read more

Ballina considers plan to protect koalas
Echonetdaily, January 20th

They are the southern KMP, which covers Wardell, Meerschaum Vale, Bagotville, Blackwall Range, Lynwood and Uralba. The Plateau KMP adjoins the Southern KMP, and includes the Alstonville Plateau while the East Ballina includes native vegetation in ...Read more

City Amends Smoking Law for Shops That Sell Only E-Cigarettes
The Missourian, January 10th

A specific exception was approved before the law took effect to allow smoking in a designated testing room at the Missouri Meerschaum Pipe Factory on Front Street. Also, indoor smoking is allowed in a certain number of designated rooms at motels in ...Read more

Let's play 'guess what Brussels is going to ban next'
Express.co.uk, January 2nd

A few days ago I came up with a preposterous joke list of my own which included meerschaum pipes, heated handles on motorbikes, electronic nose hair clippers, cocktail umbrellas, shuttlecocks made with real feathers, Euthymol toothpaste and Extra...Read more

Letters from a Nazi prison camp survivor: 'The swastika slowly sinks'
The Delaware County Daily Times, November 24th

“I went from Compiegne to Buchenwald as a Frenchman with the designation 'Meerschaum' (Foam of the Sea). Foam of the Sea were all those to be worked to death,” Bergas wrote. “The aim of this was to break the resistance of the occupied countries.”...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

Holmes, Light Your Meerschaum Pipe and Solve this Case
RipTen, September 20th

With Focus Home Interactive's investigative experience, The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, arriving next week, the developer has put together a sample of the kind of enigmas you'll be solving when you step into the shoes of the world's most famous...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