As a collector and maker of clay pipes I must say that I really admire the skills displayed in the old Dutch pipes. Even from very early times in European tobacco culture the Dutch pipe makers worked to very high standards not only in the engraving of fine moulds, but also in the hand finishing of these incredible pieces.
In some cases it appears they went to great lengths not only to produce excellent pipes but also to make them as fragile and obsessively perfect as possible. Considering they were made as long ago as 1600 the artistry and patience displayed in these pipes far exceeds our modern technology.
The Dutch pipe industry is recorded to have been started by a number of English who fled the religious persecutions at the end of the 16th century. Amsterdam then Gouda soon became the two main centres and set standards in pipe making that have been a corner-stone in this art for centuries.
Early Dutch pipes dated between circa 1580 and 1640
The tiny bowl has a rim diameter of about 10mm and is one of the earliest of European clay pipes, also known as "fairy" or "dwarf" pipes. Highly decorated bowls were also created in the pre-1650 period, often with scrolls, simple faces, Royal themes, crowns and floral designs. Many bowls were also quite bulbous looking with milling around the rim and a thick stem. The Jonas pipe depicts what is thought to be Jonah and the Whale (or Raleigh and an Alligator) and was popular with mariners in the 1630 period.
Dutch pipes dated between circa 1650 and 1730
A variety of styles are shown in this picture including those with decorated stems, and simple flower icons on the side of the bowl. A number were also glazed green all over or dipped on the rim; these are scarcer than the common plain types. The standard of surface polishing after moulding on some examples was very high indeed and can be seen in the picture.
Makers often placed their personal marks on the base of the bowl and standards were set after 1650 whereby makers marks can be identified.
Dutch pipes also often have blackened rims where they were heavily smoked. Some also had special lids that fitted over the rim (see next picture)
Dutch pipes dated between circa 1700 and 1760
After 1700 the Dutch pipes took on a more refined shape and often were decorated with scenes of the time such as tulips, crowns, fishing, birds and windmills. The walls of the bowls were also very thin and fragile and stems straight, long and narrow.
Dutch pipes dated between circa 1720 and 1850
After the first quarter of the 18th century the bowl form changed again and makers marks were placed usually on the left side. Symbols tended to be accompanied or replaced with initials and when this system became complex numbers were also introduced for makers.
Dutch pipes dated between circa 1750 and 1800
This picture shows the more well known Dutch pipe shape that developed after about 1750 and was adopted throughout the 19th and into the 20th. It is still common to this day.
These bowls often have a fine line of milling around the rim and the shield of Amsterdam on the spur. A small "s" symbol denotes pipes of lower quality although to be honest they often look as superbly finished as the better ones; that's typical of the high standards they had.
During this period some of the long pipes produced were between 55cm and 96cm long with stems of only 6mm diameter. Often these pipes were obsessively polished with "stroke" burnishing around the bowl and along the stem. Often the mouth ends of these pipes have the finger prints left in the clay in neat rows indicating great care while rotating and moving the pipe during this process.
It is sometimes almost inconceivable that such attention went into yards of clay that would not always make it in one piece to the kiln, yet alone to the smoker; how times have changed!
Dutch pipes dated between circa 1750 and 1800
This picture shows examples of the very highly moulded pipes of the 1750-1800 period. These are truly the best examples of clay pipes to be found and often were made with coats of arms and Royalty portrayed.
Examples in a more English style were also produced for export with the Royal Arms (far left), also William & Mary (see introduction picture at top of page) were celebrated as well as King Neptune and other important family arms.
Dutch pipes dated between circa 1850 and 1900
The continuation of high skill can be seen in moulding throughout the 19th century and a number of new shapes also came about including some slender fluted styles as well as chunky bulbous ones with bent stems. Again themes of the times such as Military events and Royalty were commemorated as well as witty scenes from everyday life.
Almost everything you want to know about clay pipes