Large sizes in meerschaum
The most special type of material for pipe production is meerschaum, a soft stone that is mined in Turkey. This raw material is white in color and so extremely porous that it absorbs the tobacco juices completely during smoking. As a result, meerschaum pipes smoke dry and cool, while the material is lightweight and therefore pleasant to handle. An additional gratification is that due to the absorption the pipe gradually turns from white to ivory yellow and eventually to dark brown.
Meerschaum became a popular material for pipes by 1800. Various Central European shapes are known, such as the bag-shaped pipe bowl and the high Hungarian bowl shape. The large bowls with their thick walls were provided with beautiful hinged lids and stem mountings by silversmiths. A long wooden stem cared for optimal cooling during smoking. All this hand work made these pipes so expensive that they were regarded as status symbols for the bourgeoisie smoker, people of the highest ranks and snobs, especially in the Habsburg Empire, Austria and Hungary.
The mineral is easy to carve, so that countless pipes have beautiful sculpted decorations. For example, the initials of the owner or his family crest. In other cases we see a general depiction such as a royal portrait, an historical subject or a hunting scene. Current scenes, such as a famous dancer, were also carved in meerschaum. Around 1830, in addition to the plain polished shapes, a few figural meerschaum pipes were produced. The head of a Turk or a Greek scholar are among the earliest examples.
From 1850 onwards, the meerschaum tobacco pipe lost some of its popularity. Cigar smoking became fashionable for which elegant cigar holders were being devised. Only a few renowned houses continued the production of luxury tobacco pipes for their traditional customers in the style that seems long forgotten. More and more often, pressed meerschaum is used due to a lack of suitable raw materials: scraps from the meerschaum industry is mixed with glue and pressed into pipes. The disadvantage is that these pipes do not smoke comfortably because they lack the desired porosity. At that time the tobacco pipe was often provided with a year, but beware, often a century older than the actual production date.