Briar got its start in France in the late 1830's. It proved to be a suitable material for the cremation of plant leaves and was tougher than meerschaum. The whys and wherefores of why it worked came to be understood later. It was enough to know that it worked. By the 1850's briar was well established as a material that could be worked into pleasing shapes and provide a quality smoke. Other woods, like pear and olive, have their adherents, but the briar trade was well established and has remained so.