Antique Chess Sets
History of Antique Chess Sets
Reproductions of antique chess sets are a relatively new phenomena that were inspired by growing interest and passion for the history of chess. Historical chess sets run a wide range of styles and designs, due to the fact that standardised chess was developed relatively late into the game’s history; it was not until the mid-1800s that the “classic” chess design most associated with the game was produced. Before this standardisation, it was most common for chess players to have a unique set made just for them. These highly detailed sets included hand-carved wood or ivory pieces and were much more elegantly detailed than the mass-produced Staunton pieces that became the norm during the 20th century.
The unmistakable style and class in these antique chess sets is something that many chess players appreciate. However, purchasing genuine antique chess is not feasible for most people. For one, the cost can be astronomical depending on the age of the set, the material it’s made from, as well as whether or not it is a complete set. Certain types of antique chess sets may not even be legal to sell or buy, especially if they contain materials such as ivory, which is also a hindrance. And yes, it can be difficult to even find complete antique chess sets, which will definitely be a factor for chess players who want to actually play their set!Read More
What did they look like?
If you ever wondered what did an antique chess board look like, now is the perfect time to find out! As we said before, most of these medieval chess pieces were custom made, so they differed a lot in material and overall style. The design often involved current monarchs, or the opposite, ancient history. During the French revolution, a chess set was custom made for the King himself, where the King and Queen chess pieces were carved to resemble King Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette. In general, the medieval chess pieces were very ornate, and the characters were carved in great detail, depicting faces, weaponry, parts of clothing typical for the overall theme of the antique chess board.
Some ancient history themes involved ancient Greece (with all the appropriate attire), Spartacus’ rebellion, Ceasars of ancient Rome, etc.
Antique Chess — Without Antique Prices
That is where stylised antique chess sets come in. These boards are inspired by historical chess designs and feature antique style—all without genuine antique prices. Don’t think that because these are reproductions, they are low quality, either. Modern antique chess reproductions are made with quality craftsmanship and material that—while it may not exactly come close to the quality of a master craftsman’s hand-carved ivory set that cost a million dollars in the 18th century—certainly reflects a higher elegance and quality than your everyday standard chess set.
Famous chess sets in History
Now, as something of an inspiration, let’s remember some of the most notable and unique chess sets that people have come up with in the long history of this game.
- Ager chess pieces
This antique chess board along with a partial set of crystal pieces was found around the territory of modern Iraq and was carved in the 9th century. These absolutely gorgeous pieces didn’t resemble a human form. In Islamic culture, depicting a human form and face in any way (through painting, carving, stitching, etc.) is perceived as an attempt to match yourself to Allah (i.e. God in Islam). And as only He is believed to have the prerogative of creation, it is condemned by the religion to try and picture living creatures. This is the reason that all the antique chess made in the Arabic culture have a specific style that doesn’t depict human characters at all.
- Lewis chessmen
This unique and extraordinary collection of chess pieces was found in Scotland. These pieces were carved from walrus ivory in the 12th century, allegedly in Norway. A total of 79 pieces were found, with all the modern chess pieces (Pawns, Knights, Bishops, Rooks, Kings and Queens). The range in sizes suggests that they could belong to at least 5 separate sets.
- Red vs White
Our next guest star is not an antique chess board per se, but a fascinating one all the same. It was made in 1922, a few years after the revolution in the Russian Empire, when the “red army” took power over the “white army” and basically gave start to the Soviet Union. This set features porcelain pieces, which in itself is quite unique and rare. On the reds vs whites chess board, the pieces are portrayed in different style, which is also interesting. One of the kings is portrayed as Death and the other one as a common “working-class hero” with a hammer. Guess which one is the head of the “Red Army” and which is the White King!
After discussing so many fascinating and beautiful sets, we hope you got the inspiration you needed, and a better understanding of antique sets and their purpose!
If you are looking for an interesting gift for a fellow chess loving friend or family member, why not consider an antique style chess set? They will definitely appreciate adding a unique and detailed antique chess sets to their collection, especially if they enjoy having an interesting history-related discussion piece that is sure to inspire an engaging history lesson in between moves. These antique chess also make the perfect gift for yourself, if you are interested in history and history inspired reproductions that capture something special that was present in chess sets of the past.Read Less