Antique Meerschaum Pipes
Antique Meerschaum pipes are pre-20th century smoking pipes that are made from the mineral meerschaum.
History & Description
Meerschaum is a soft, white mineral that is mined in Europe and Asia and is sometimes found floating on the Black Sea. It was first used for making smoking pipes in the early 1720s and quickly became cherished as the ideal material for providing a flavourful, dry and cool smoke.
Due to the material’s porous nature, it helps to draw tobacco tar and moisture into the stone, which is why many antique examples have turned to incremental shades of yellow, red and orange.
From the beginning of the nineteenth century, briar wood became the most common material for smoking pipes and reduced the demand for meerschaum pipes.
Guide for collectors
Antique meerschaum pipes are regularly advertised on eBay and are sold through national and international auction houses.
Collectors should be aware that used pipes are worth considerably more than those that have never been used. In addition, pipes that are signed or hallmarked also tend to sell at higher prices. As a general rule, the price of an antique pipe can be determined by its condition and colour – new pipes are white or pale cream whilst used pipes are red, yellow and orange. Furthermore, the more elaborate the carving, the more valuable the pipe is.
Notable auction sales
On May 23rd 2006 at Christie’s in London, a large pipe, attributed to Joseph Krammer, circa 1871, realised a price of £26,400.
On May 12th 2004 at Christie’s in London, a pipe modelled on an Oriental lady, circa late-nineteenth century, realised a price of £10,755.
On September 22nd 2010 at Christie’s in London, a large Austrian pipe and cover carved with a figure of Poseidon, circa 1875, realised a price of £8,750.
On September 22nd 2010 at Christie’s in London, a large Austrian pipe modelled on the head of a woman, circa 1875, realised a price of £7,500.