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Friday, January 13, 2012

Mother of pearl gaming counter addiction

Hmm I got a little carried away on eBay again. 
These adorable little, exquisitely carved, authentic 18th century mother of pearl gaming counters get to me. 
Many collectors favour the armorial type featuring a coat of arms but I like the ones with monograms.  
A coat of arms is a family identifier but a monogram is personal - an individual's possession.
Some like this one (at left) have both a coat of arms and a monogram.
Someone in the 18th century, a man or a woman, owned, carried and played with  them.  They were designed, planned for and waited on. 
You sent your order off with a ship's captain to China to one of the small villages where carving them was the main industry and waited for a year before your lacquer box of gaming chips arrived. I can imagine the delight they brought when they arrived because I know how excited I was when my little box of goodies arrived! 
When I hold them, I travel in time. 
They are wonderfully smooth and divinely iridescent. 
How marvellous that two hundred years later I can hold them in my hand and marvel over their beauty.
I will never know the name of the craftsman who made them, the captain of the ship, or who they were made for. 
I will never know where they lived, or whether they gambled for fun or were addicted.  
But I know who might be addicted now.
Oh and you might want to check out chezbill.com who has masses of information about the history and designs of these counters. 
See also my earlier post on my growing collection of counters. Oh that I could afford an entire set! 

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