Meerschaum is a soft white or gray colored mineral that is sometimes found floating on the Black Sea. Meerschaum comes from the German word for seafoam. It is used primarily to make smoking pipes which are highly collectible. The soft nature makes it ideal for intricate and deep carving. It is soft when first extracted but hardens when heated. Over time the color changes as well, starting out light in color and becoming darker with use, usually dark amber tones. Meerschaum has been used for smoking pipes since the 18th century with it’s peak during the late 19th century. They were made in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Today most Meerschaum pipes are made in Turkey where Meerschaum is readily available.
The most common meerschaum pipes are of an old man’s head. Other popular antique meerschaum pipes include skulls, dragons, tigers, missouri meerschaum, meerschaum calabash, meerschaum churchwarden and many other animals.