Bands, ferrules, caps and rings

verette ranelle
They are accessories that set your pipe off, enhance it, and make its origin and style recognizable (let’s think of the olive shaped bands of Peterson’s or Terminus); but they also make the joint stronger and prevent cracks.

Around the accessories rotates a world of fantasy, ability and inventiveness. Since their introduction bands were made of alloys: brass, copper, silver brass, silver, nickel, and gold, both chiseled and drilled in imitation of lace. The rings were made of horn or ivory. The ferrules were ivory. In Saint-Claude, in France, pipe manufacturers were rather reserved about their suppliers. No pipe factory produced those elements by itself (machinery was totally different: in pipe factories no metal, only wood, was processed), and – for what I know – not even now.

By pure chance, years ago my father discovered (by reading labels on little boxes) that the French used to buy the best accessories in Italy (the simplest but the sturdiest) and in Germany (for example those made of drilled silver). Those products were commissioned to factories specialized in metal minutia or even goldsmith laboratories.

The final consumer can understand little of the initials, abbreviations, symbols, illustrations that are stamped on bands.

As my father J.M. Alberto Paronelli withdrew the archive, sets of samples and stock of the Fratelli Rossi, which closed down in 1984, he found unlimited provisions of accessories: horn mouthpieces, bands of all kinds and materials, caps, filters, flocks, connectors and aluminum systems. Many of these bands carry no mark; some, particularly the most ancient from the second half of 1800 or early 1900, are stamped with unintelligible initials, because these external suppliers were forbidden from being identified: the pipe factory wanted them exclusively and sought to also protect itself from competition.

It’s uncommon to find the name of the pipe manufacturer on the band too (Morell McKenzie in Saint-Claude, Peterson’s in Ireland, and more recently Brebbia in Italy). In some cases initials don’t even refer to the name of the producer, but to an old trade mark, or are imaginary. In other cases, producers were allowed to stamp logos, symbols (star, lion, sun, anchor, crossbow, etc.) to identify their product, as a quality guarantee.

To be fair, when we talk about a “pipe” we should specify “the bowl of the pipe”, since everything else is outsourced: it’s like the car industry, where the so-called manufacturer is today substantially an assembler.

After all, pipe producers bet their reputation on accessories too. They are warrantors of the accessories’ functionality, since accessories integrate and qualify, that wonderful object of desire, the PIPE.

Antonio Paolo Paronelli