Meerschaum" is a German word meaning literally, "sea-foam," alluding to the belief that it was the compressed whitecaps of waves, just as it is said in mythology for the goddess of beauty - Aphrodite.
Meerschaum is a hydrated magnesium silicate. Magnesium does not make it strong and the hydrogen and oxygen do not make it cool. It is the crystalline structure; the arrangement of the magnesium, silicon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms in a rigid crystalline structure that makes sepiolite (the clay mineral that is identified by pipe smokers as meerschaum) so good for smoking. The average size of the meerschaum blocks extracted from the clay is about the size of a grapefruit.
Carved Turkish meerschaum products were traditionally made in manufacturing centers such as Vienna.
Since the 1970s, though, Turkey has banned the exportation of meerschaum nodules, trying to set up a local meerschaum industry. The once famous manufacturers have therefore disappeared and European pipe producers turned to others sources for their pipes.
Meerschaum deposits of the highest quality are found only in one place in the world - in the small city of Eskisehir in central Turkey. And here the deposits are confined to an area of only 4 square miles. Mined with hand tools, and by men trained in this singular family tradition, meerschaum is excavated at depths ranging from 200 to 300 feet.
Beyond the appeal of their decorations, meerschaum pipes are popular with smokers for the quality of the smoking experience they produce. Unlike pipes made of briar root or cherry, meerschaum does not impart any flavor when smoked (although it must be added that many smokers enjoy the subtle flavors produced when smoking tobacco in a wood pipe). Because meerschaum does not conduct heat well, the bowl is always cool to the touch. And the porosity of meerschaum causes the pipe to change color over time as it used. Thus, the stone, which is carved white, turns a butterscotch brown when transformed into a pipe, filled with tobacco, and smoked, a process that’s frequently hurried along by rubbing a finished pipe with beeswax and sometimes ox blood.
Nearly 300 years ago, the first meerschaum pipe was carved by hand. And today, these unique pipes are still carved by hand.
The first recorded use of meerschaum for making pipes was around 1723 and quickly became prized as the perfect material for providing a cool, dry, flavorful smoke. The porous nature of meerschaum draws moisture and tobacco tar into the stone. Meerschaum became a premium substitute for the clay pipes of the day and remains prized to this day though, since the mid-1800s, briar pipes have become the most common pipes for smoking.
The use of briar wood beginning in the early 1820s greatly reduced demand for clay pipes and, to a lesser degree, meerschaum pipes. The qualities of the meerschaum were combined with those of the briar wood pipes by lining a briar pipe with a meerschaum bowl. Some who believe that the meerschaum-lined briar pipe gives the porosity and sweet smoking qualities of meerschaum along with the heat-absorbing qualities and durability of briar.
By the late 19th century, an ornately carved meerschaum pipe or cheroot holder was a status symbol for the men who smoked them in their clubs and book-lined studies. But by the end of World War I, fancy meerschaum pipes had been superseded by the clean, geometric look that would become Art Deco.
During its heyday, from roughly the 1870s to the 1920s, pipe makers in Hungary and other Eastern European countries, many of whom were Jews who passed their trade from son to son, transformed blank blocks of white meerschaum into everything from the heads of figures from history and literature to angels in repose and hunters on horseback. Cheroot holders, which have smaller bowls than full pipes, feature some of the most intricate carvings, while cylindrical cigar holders are less detailed due to their small surface area. Some of the most popular subjects of antique meerschaum include depictions of leaders such as Napoleon, knights and noblemen, and sailors, who often appear inebriated, sometimes clutching a bottle as they lean against the pipe's bowl.
Today meerschaum is not allowed to be exported from Turkey in its raw, block form, which has spurred new generations of carvers there. In many cases, the characters and subjects of contemporary carved meerschaum are positioned between the bowl, which is often left unadorned, and the end of the pipe's stem. Other styles emulate the classical saxophone shape of a large carved bowl attached to a stem that angles up to meet the smoker's mouth. The pipes are considered handsome enough, but in general, the details on contemporary pipes are less ornate and more formulaic than those on their forebears.
WHAT ARE THE STEMS MADE OF?:
usually until the last century the stems was made from baltic AMBER which it was amazing combination between the meerschaum and amber where the both materials came from the sea.
and some pipes used wood and horn stems.
now since 1940-1970 and new meerschaum pipes the stems are uses is Bakelite or Lucite.
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