Ah, ‘tis a slippery slope when I find something I love! Thinking back to last May, when I first laid eyes on the gorgeous mother-of-pearl silverware that I spotted, and knowing what’s happened next, I certainly didn’t need a new obsession.
When I found one set of the mother of pearl silver, I also discovered mother of pearl Chinese gaming chips being sold by the same dealer. These tiny, and I mean 1.5 inches by .75 inches, pieces of mother of pearl are all hand-carved. The Chinese are huge gamblers and in the 1700’s on long sea journeys, the crewmen filled their time by carving these pieces and then using them for games. These chips then moved to England, especially as part of the tea and porcelain trade, and became commonplace in English households. I’ve seen examples of these engraved with beautiful monograms, and coats of arms. As tastes in games changed, the need for these beautiful counters faded by the 1850’s. The best ones were made in China, and feature cross-hatching, as you can see in one of the chips above and below.
The chips came in several shapes including fish, roundels, rectangles, some with plain edges and others with scalloped edges, and ovals. THe details are amazing, and on the rectangle above and the ovals below, the dots are raised! They are also carved on both sides, but with different patterns.