Meerschaum and its processing

Meerschaum, called Lületaşı in Eskişehir (Turkey), a “sepiolite” in mineralogical jargon, a magnesium silicate (63.3% silica and 24.7% magnesium) is extracted mostly in heaps.

Scia di Persia pipe in meerschaum

Scia di Persia meerschaum pipe

A particular importance is attributed to this mineral for its absorbing characteristics: it has the power to absorb the “humor” juices of the tobacco. The extract it, big holes are made, located around 30/50 km far from the city of Eskişehir. It is found at a depth of 20/60 meters.

The manufacturing of Meerschaum pipes has been a specialty in Vienna for 200 years, the processing of which is jealously kept secret.

requires, in fact, undoubted talent and an able hand to obtain pipes of bizarre and splendid shapes from Meerschaum pebbles. The final processes require just as much attention. The production of good Meerschaum pipes is pure handicraft. The pipe is carved, dried, polished, smoothed in spermaceti and finally put in a cauldron of wax.

As briar pipes have differences in quality, so do Meerschaum pipes. This already implies the importance of choosing the raw material; once chosen, a delicate task consisting of removing Neolithic water from the Meerschaum begins, to prevent the pipe from becoming bitter after a few months and resulting in a disappointed smoker.

Between the extraction of raw Meerschaum and the skillful handwork to produce excellent pipes there exists a chasm.

Alberto Paronelli work on meerschaum pipe

Alberto Paronelli work on meerschaum pipe

How Europe got to know Meerschaum is uncertain. According to documentation, credit is given to the frequent Turkish invasions in Europe.

Two hypothesis have been theorized:

Europe may have known Meerschaum after the second Turkish siege of Vienna, during the Turkish army’s hurried retreat from the Austrian capital.

According to another version, in 1860 the Austrian ambassadress to Turkey received two pieces of Meerschaum, as a present from the Sultan, and entrusted them to one of her cobblers from Budapest. He was known to be a talented writer, and after accidentally discovering the reaction that wax had on Meerschaum, carved two pipes for his patrons.

Alberto Paronelli lavora una pipa in schiuma

meerschaum pipe