One of our latest acquisitions is this interesting Meerschaum pipe in the shape of an elephant head and trunk, set with ivory tusks and with a horn mouthpiece in it's original fitted box, c.1900 (images below).
Now you may be asking, what is a 'Meerschaum' pipe?
A Meerschaum pipe is a smoking pipe made from the mineral sepiolite, translated directly from German to meaning "sea foam" which is sometimes found floating on the Black Sea.
The first recorded use of meerschaum for making pipes was around 1723 and it quickly became prized as the perfect material for providing a cool, dry, flavourful smoke. Meerschaum is able to absorb the moisture and tobacco tar into the material due to its porous nature and became a premium substitute for clay pipes up to the mid-1800s before briar pipes become more common for smoking. You can see when a meerschaum pipe has been repeatedly smoked as it will gradually change colour. Old, well-smoked meerschaum pipes are valued by collectors for their distinctive colouring ranging from shades of yellow to orange, red and amber from the base on up. Note that Meerschaum pipes can either be carved from a block of meerschaum, or made from meerschaum dust collected after carving and mixed with a binder then pressed into a pipe shape similar to our elephant shaped pipe.
After 40 plus years in the trade we are always interested in viewing and sourcing fascinating items of any shape and size. If you have something you think we would be interested in, please don't hesitate to email with a picture or bring it in for us to view.