MEERSCHAUM means in German sea foam ; and the equivalent French name of ecume de mer is applied to the same substance. It is a silieated magnesian mineral, found in Greece, Turkey, and a few other countries. It is used by the Tartars for washing linen, somewhat in the same manner as pearl ash or fullers' earth. The mineral is principally used however as a material Tor tobacco pipes, which, when made, are soaked in melted tallow, then in white wax, and finally polished with shave-grass. If genuine, a meerschaum pipe acquires a beautiful brown colour after being smoked for some time, the oil of the tobacco being absorbed by the clay ; and this is a point to which connoisseurs in smoking attach much importance.
Dr. E. D. Clarke gives some interesting details on this subject. In the Crimea the meerschaum clay is called keff-kil, and forms a stratum about two feet thick, beneath a much thicker stratum of marl. " The first rude form is given to the pipes upon the spot where the mineral is found ; here they are pressed within a mould, and laid in the sun to harden ; afterwards they are baked in an oven, boiled in milk, and rubbed with soft leather. In this state they go to Constantinople, where there is a peculiar bazaar or khan for the sale of them ; they are then bought up by merchants, and sent by caravans to Pesth in Hungary. Still the form of the pipe is large and rude. At Pesth manufacturer begins to fit them for the German markets. They are there soaked for twenty-four hours in water, and then turned in a lathe. In this process many of them, proving porous, are rejected. Sometimes only two or three out of ten are deemed worthy of further labour. From Pesth they are conveyed to Vienna, and frequently
mounted in silver. After this they are carried to the fairsof Leipsic, Frankfort, Mannheim, and other towns upon the Rhine, where the hest sell from three to five and even seven pounds sterling. When the oil of tobacco, after long smoking, has given them a fine porcelain yellow, or which is more prised, a dark tortoise-shell hue, they have been known to sell for forty or fifty pounds of our money.
Since Dr. Clarke wrote, a change has taken place in the mauufac tuning arrangement& Rough Turkish bowls still occasionally come to market; but tho meerschaum is mostly sent to Germany In the form of irreguLer blocks, with obtuse angles and edges : requiring careful manipulation with the aid of water to remove irregularities and faulty portions. Many specimens contain a harder sort of meerschaum, which the Germans call 1-rridneassee, and which is a cause of much difficulty in the subsequent carving. In order to economise the shreds and parings produced during the manufacture, they are brought to a fine powder, boiled in water, and moulded into blocks with or without the addition of clay. Each of these blocks is afterwards moulded and carved into a bowl. These bowls are distinguished from real mecr- ' rehatun by a greater specific gravity ; but in other respects they arc not easily distinguished.
Sumo largo and fine specimens of meerschaum nro carved so elaborately into pipe-bowls, as to command two or three hundred guineas each.