While the materials clay, meerschaum and wood are the most common for tobacco pipes, there are enough other possibilities. They are clearly less common because many materials do not offer good smoking qualities. For example, metal conducts the heat of the smoldering tobacco. Yet we see pipes made of bronze, iron, aluminum or silver. Small pipes of iron served as an alternative to the fragile clay pipe as early as the seventeenth century. At the time, they were qualified as soldier pipes, due to their durability even during transport. In later times, silver pipes functioned as a luxurious alternative to the clay pipe. Some of the French high-class smokers lifted their status with such pipes, either based on the design of the clay pipe, or with a strongly bent stem with moist drain.
Another popular material is organic material. Deer stag, for example, has served as inspiration for very specific pipes for two generations, artfully carved in two colors. The German origin meant that predominantly hunting scenes are depicted, which fits well with the rustic appearance of the material. Rarer pipes are made of ivory, scrimshaw, buffalo horn, coral or shell. Most curious is the scissors of a crab that has been transformed into a pipe. Obviously the design always closely follows the possibilities of the material.
Less suitable for pipes are types of stone, which can be very attractive, but will never smoke comfortably because of their impermeable nature. In addition, such pipes are heavy. Agate and rock crystal have been processed into luxurious pipes, they have not been nice smokers. The same goes for glass. An unexpected material is coquilla nut, a strong rock-hard Brazilian nut, very suitable for turning work or fine sculpture. A whole industry developed from this material, resulting in special and artistically carved pipes and snuff boxes.
Because of the limitations in use, such as heat, taste or condensation, many such alternative pipes have been curios rather than standard utensils. As remarked, many creations do not always guarantee optimal smoking comfort. In that respect, nothing beats an ordinary pipe made of common materials.