How To Pick Meerschaum

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Jef

Member
Oct 10, 2019
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242
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North Carolina
From 1982 to 1984 I spent 2 years in Adana, Turkey. I spent a lot of time learning about and purchasing meerschaum pipes. Hopefully, what I have to share will help answer some of the questions I see in the forum.

Meerschaum Grading:
In Turkey, there is a grading system (1 thru 10) with grade 1 being the best. Color, purity, and weight matter in the grading. Most meerschaum has stone mixed in it. It is just a fact of nature. The less stone content, the higher grading.

Color: The more pure white color the block is, the higher grading.

Purity: Here is where you really have to look. There is a condition called flecking. Flecking is a flake looking appearance in the surface of the meerschaum. The surface itself is smoothe as it can be. But as the pipe "colors" you will see a checker board effect appear. The coloring will be mixed and not a smoothe even browning.

Weight: High quality meerschaum is light as a feather! You just have to get your hands on some to get the idea.

Blocks of meerschaum are soaked in a bucket of water before carving. This softens the meerschaum so it is easy to carve and shape. It is almost like carving damp chalk. Shavings peel effortlessly and even when the meerschaum is soaked. It is a lot easier on the carvers tools as well.

Carvers: Here is where a lot of you will be suprised. Many of the Turkish pipes I bought were carved by young boys. I saw a 12 year old boy carve a beautiful ornate pipe in less than 30 minutes. The carving was clean and symetrical.

All of the pipes I saw have nylon or plastic feemale insert in the stummel and male in the stem. The inserts just screw right in to the pieces. After 3 or 4 years they wear ou or break. The pieces are easily available and replaced.

Once the pipes are finished, they are dipped and sealed in hot beeswax. The beeswax also aids in the coloring of the pipe as it is smoked over time. Once they are dried then tbey are mostly hand buffed with a soft cotton cloth.

Hope this helps some of you with your decissions.

Jef
 

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Jef

Member
Oct 10, 2019
156
242
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North Carolina
It has been so long since I was in the meerschaum scene that I really don't know what a high quality meerschaum costs. I own 2 and smoke one of them regularly. The one I smoke has a fair amount of stone in it. It is heavy as far as pure meerschaum goes. It was snow white with no flecking when I bought it. It is beautifully carved as well. My 1 grade meerschaum is twice as large and probably weighs 50% lighter. In 1985 it was appraised at $350.

Personally, I can't tell the difference between my meerschaum and my briars when smoking. My meerschaum does build cake as well. I trim it just like my briars.

To me, meers are a collectors thing. You don't see guys out smoking a white pipe with a big turban on top or a big claw hanging out of there mouth. However, some are beautifully carved and a work of art. Just like briars, you have to train yourself what to look for.

Jef
 

jonasclark

Preferred Member
Aug 4, 2013
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Seattle
Jef, there are pipes I have, unsmoked, where a sort of fine, speckled texture is visible under the smooth surface. I've always assumed this was a sign of high-quality meerschaum, because I only have it on fancier pipes-- Ismet Bekler, Huseyin Yanik, and a few unsigned. Am I correct?
 

chasingembers

Captain of the Black Frigate
Nov 12, 2014
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27,728
Jef, there are pipes I have, unsmoked, where a sort of fine, speckled texture is visible under the smooth surface. I've always assumed this was a sign of high-quality meerschaum


From Jef's post above:


Purity: Here is where you really have to look. There is a condition called flecking. Flecking is a flake looking appearance in the surface of the meerschaum. The surface itself is smoothe as it can be. But as the pipe "colors" you will see a checker board effect appear. The coloring will be mixed and not a smoothe even browning.
 

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