Stone Chess Pieces and Sets, Options and Considerations
A lot of focus is put in to wood chess pieces because they are the most traditional. However, there are many other alternate forms of chessmen. In this blog post i’ll be looking at stone chess pieces and sets. While these sets can be fragile, they are also absolutely fantastic display pieces that can add a great bit of character and flair to any furniture display. Stone chess sets are a favorite of collectors and laymen alike as a great option for a nice, luxurious item that is a little different.
Marble Chess Sets
The most popular type of stone chess sets are made from marble or onyx. Marble chess sets have a huge variety of colors and textures, ranging from traditional whites, blacks, and grays to unique colors such as green, reddish orange, or even coral and fossil stone.
The wide range of options combined with the relatively affordable price makes marble a great option. Not only do these chess sets come in a lot of different color combinations, they also come in a few different styles, ranging from rustic, hand carved marble sets where each one will be unique to machine made, mass produced sets out of Asia where they will be clean and modern. The different options allow marble to be a great choice for any home display.
Other Stone Chess Sets
Of course, there are other styles of stone sets beyond marble and onyx that interest collectors. They range from extremely expensive alabaster chess sets from Italy to really unusual theme stone pieces from Mexico made of Malachite. There are even soapstone and Jade theme sets manufactured in east Asia.
While sets made from onyx, marble, and alabaster are generally traditional in style, these other stones are usually carved in to more unique designs. Malachite, a very rough green and blue stone from Mexico, is so unusual many people who have them do not know what it is. (most of the time these are folding sets with a Conquistador and Aztec theme). Jade and soapstone sets are often Chinese themes, such as the ‘eight fairies’ fable.
Marble Chess Pieces
One popular question in regards to stone chessmen is whether or not you can purchase the pieces separately from the board. Most of the time this is unfortunately not possible. Sets such as Jade, Alabaster, and Malachite are not usually found in the US Market, and when they are, they are likely from private collectors where separating the board and pieces or getting a full set of pieces as replacements simply is not possible.
Marble chess sets, however, are a bit of an exception. While these are also manufactured overseas (Most of the marble sets you’ll see for sale are from Pakistan), we work directly with the factory and actually have started imported the marble pieces on their own in both the rustic and European styles. This means there is a solution for all of the folks who have marble boards without pieces or are just looking for marble pieces to compliment the wood, metal, glass, or other chessboard they display in their home.
There are two designs of marble chessmen – our rustic style and our European style. The rustic style is quite rough. Each piece is different because they are all hand carved. These pieces are still quite obviously traditional, yet charming in their simplicity.
The European design is much more similar to a classic french chess set. These stone pieces are smooth, and very carefully done. You can see from the photos above they have a lot more detail than the rustic design.
There is not a right or wrong with the chess piece design – they are simply two different options. Just like the sets, they come in a large variety of color combinations. Each of the Marble chess pieces are 3 1/2″ tall. This size works well for 1 1/2″ – 1 3/4″ squares.
Downside to Marble and Stone Chess Sets
Of course, there are some other considerations to keep in mind when purchasing stone chess sets. Unlike wood sets, they are much, much more fragile. A marble or onyx chess piece dropped from a few feet above a marble board could cause them to break. Obviously a drop to a tile or wood floor can do the same.
The one saving grace is most of the time these breaks are clean and some superglue can repair the piece – at least in marble chess sets. One of the most common problems with the onyx sets from Mexico is that when you arrive home, some pieces have broken and they are not easily repaired or replaced.
Marble replacements, at least, are much easier to come by – we import literally several hundred of these guys each year, so it’s easy to take a piece from another set and worry about getting our own replacement later. However, as it is with any natural material that is hand carved, sometimes a replacement piece is slightly different in color or carving. While this does not tend to be a huge concern, it is something worth mentioning!
One final limitation on marble chess pieces are that they are almost all in the same size. The marble chess sets are usually 16″ (although there are one or two 18″ as well). It’s not that larger designs do not exist – the problem is they are fragile and that at larger sizes there is an increased risk of damage during shipping so we were forced to stop carrying them.
If you have any questions about marble, onyx, or other stone chess sets, please do not hesitate to leave a comment or send an email!