East-European shape of a meerschaum bowl decorated with imitation juwels, Budapest, Hungary, 1850-1870

Meerschaum

The most appreciated material for making pipes is meerschaum, a soft white type of lightweight stone, found in Turkey. This highly porous material absorbs all the juices in the smoke and is easy to carve. Long time use makes the pipe turn yellow to finally dark brown, which often is a great pleasure for the smoker. These characteristics make that meerschaum pipes are popular as an easy to handle, attractive and tasteful smoking instrument.

Meerschaum was first used in the seventeenth century, but did really become popular towards the end of the eighteenth century. Shapewise the mid-European pipe type dominated, with the bagshape and the Hungarian pipes as the most common ones. Meerschaum pipes became the status for the bourgeoisie smoker and the upper class in central Europe. The large bowls with their thick walls were fitted with silver mountings, while a long stem provided a comfortable cool smoke.

As said, meerschaum is easy to carve which resulted in a wide variety of decorations. Sometimes the initials of the owner or his family coat of arms are on the bowl. Other examples show portraits of royal persons or an historical scene. Especially Napoleon has been popular as a theme to depict.

About 1830 next to the plain shapes also figural pipes are made. The Turk head is one of the first, soon followed by portraits of contemporary persons and historical depictions. A nice example is the bust of Louise de la Vallière. By 1860 the figural pipes became a rage and are made by thousands, all having a shorter stem and being cased. This fashion is kept alive till the First World War.

By the end of the nineteenth century the tradition of meerschaum pipes declined. The material gets scarcer and often the scraps of the stone are re-used in moulded, so called pressed meerschaum pipes. Disadvantage however is, that the pipes are no longer porous and do not absorb anymore. Besides, their weight increases. A lot of these mass-produced meerschaum pipes bear fake dating, varying from the late eighteenth century to about 1890.

bag shaped meerschaum pipe bowl with remarkable lid in silver and horn, Vienna, Austria, 1830-1870
the so-called Hungarian shape with high cilindrical bowl, Vienna, Austria, 1850-1870
Hungarian shape in meerschaum, Vienna, Austria, 1860-1880
Hungarian bowl flattened on two sides typical for the Empire-era, Vienna, Austria, 1800-1820
Hongarian pipe bowl with geometrical patterns and inlaid with precious stones and beads, Budapest, Hungary, 1820-1860
high six sided pipe bowl with silver on the edges, Budapest, Hungary, 1860-1890
slender bowl with on the front scene of a smoking hunter, Vienna, Austria, 1835-1845
Hungarian shaped meerschaum with a mascaron and scrollwork, ivory stem, Vienna, Austria, 1835-1865
Napoleon on horseback next to a standing soldier with gun, Vienna, Austria, 1840-1850
Hungarian shaped meerschaum pipe with a parkscene in the middle a band-stand, Vienna, Austria, 1840-1870
characteristic meerschaum shape with hunting scene, Vienna, Austria, 1830-1850
detail of the lid shaped like a fish, English silversmith's work, 1840-1860 Hungarian with ornamental carving inspired on rocailles, Vienna, Austria, 1840-1860 large meerschaum pipe bowl with a sene of Diana as hunting goddess, Budapest, Hungary, 1820-1835
silver mounted bowl with sportsman accompanied by a dog, Vienna, Austria, 1840-1860 pipe made from pressed meerschaum with historical scene of Napoleon, Germany, 1870-1890
extremely luxourious meerschaum pipe bowl mounted with a gilt silver lid with decoration in colonial style, Sheffield, England, 1825
slender pipe bowl showing a standing smoking man, Mid-Europe, 1860-1890 Hungarian shape with on the front an amourous couple in historic clothing, Germany, 1850-1875
pipe bowl with three circular medaillions with historic scenes encircled with Turkish ornaments, Vienna, Austria, 1834
meerschaum pipe with a plaque of Franz I of Austria in Wedgwood framed as a coat of arms, Vienna, Austria, 1824
bagshaped pipe bowl in fine meerschaum with attractive Louis XV motives, Vienna, Austria, 1870-1880
bulbous undecorated pipe bowl with meerschaum lid wit openings for the air, Hungary?, 1830-1850 meerschaum pipe the shape inspired on the German Ulm pipe, Austria, 1860-1870 so-called Gesteckpfeife with meerschaum bowl and buffalo horn stem, Germany, 1860-1880
grotesque portrait with silver fitting and bamboo stem, Mid-Europe, 1860-1880
bust of Louise de la Vallière, silver lid showing a feathered hat, Vienna, Austria, 1840-1850
massive bowl representing a Turks' head in turban, on the lid a moon, Budapest, Hungary, 1830-1850
egg-shaped tobacco pipe with on the stem a woman near a waterfall, Austria?, 1900-1920 nicely carved portrait of a Creolian woman, Vienna, Austria, 1880-1900
tobacco pipe with zuave head and strongly curved stem Turkey?, 1920-1940
a two-tone meerschaum, the hat of the zouave is still white, Vienna, Austria, 1880-1900 portrait of a bearded man wearing a fez, Vienna, Austria, 1900-1920 typical portrait with fez ending on the pipe stem, Vienna, Austria, 1890-1915
elegant lady with fashionable hat with ribbans, Vienna, Austria, 1880-1900
curious and slightly demonstrative motive, a ladie's leg in pants, Vienna, Austria, 1880-1910
tobacco pipe in the shape of a ball holded by a lions' claw, Vienna, Austria, 1880-1900
a popular motive: an egg shaped pipe bowl helt by an opened human hand, France, 1930-1950
table pipe made from a block of meerschaum calcines on the top, Austria, 1955-1965
large tobacco pipe with egg shaped bowl hold by a bird's claw, Vienna, Austria, 1920-1940
All objects on this page are part of the Amsterdam Pipe Museum
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