Restoration of the Game – Antique Chess Set Restorations

Jaques of London Howard Staunton original 300 Tournament Series Chess Sets

All things are subject to the impact of time, including chess sets. From their creation, pieces experience use and abuse all the while weathering environmental changes and natural deterioration of materials and finishes. The popularity of the ancient game of chess is known to have thrived for at least fifteen hundred years, inspiring the design and production of countless sets in as many forms as the imagination has to offer. Chess set designs have varied with the personalities of players and designers throughout the game’s history, including the set featured in this article. Sets included turned pieces, sculptured fantasy, medieval, architectural bases, and carvings in wood, ivory, porcelain, and various metals cast, bent, or otherwise fabricated.

The random correlation of these uniquely designed pieces with their rank on the board created frustration though players of all levels, with particular ferocity amongst tournament champions. The creativity and master skills of the artists, designers, and craftsmen became counterproductive to carrying out the original intention of the set. Mistakes raised controversy when the misidentification of a piece inadvertently altered the direction of the game, confusing even the most competent of players.

Jaques of London Howard Staunton original 300 Tournament Series Chess Sets - Restoration by Artisans of the Valley
Jaques Original 1849 Staunton Pieces Before Restoration

In 1849, Jaques of London introduced the first tournament standard set, designed by Nathaniel Cooke. Cooke’s revolutionary simplistic design quickly gained attention in the circles of masters, impressing famous English School of Chess exponent Howard Staunton enough to authenticate every set with his signature. Going back to 2003 Artisans of the Valley took on their first chess set restoration; which just happened to be diving right into the deep end as they often do. Artisans of the Valley had the privilege of completing the restoration of the ninth and second earliest known existing, of the first 300 of Jaques of London Howard Staunton tournament series chess sets. This blog entry discusses chess set restoration in general, featuring of few of our recent projects as well as some images from the inaugural restoration; we’ll also provide a link to a feature article entitled “Restoration of the Game,” which tells the full story behind the original conservation project.

Jaques of London Howard Staunton original 300 Tournament Series Chess Sets - Restoration by Artisans of the Valley
Jaques Original 1849 Staunton Pieces After Restoration

Artisans of the Valley is proud to be a small part of the amazing history behind Jaques of London – a company founded in 1795 and remaining without disruption within the same family linage. We are one of the very few restoration shops in the world that will handle chess set restoration. The fact that we provide this servers offers collectors an opportunity to obtain damaged sets and regain their value though a carefully planned repair of chips, cracks, and dents as well as replacement of missing crosses, pips, and in some cases entire pieces.

Jaques of London 4.4 Inch Limited Eddition Chess SetToday Jaques offers a wide range of chess sets to fulfill the requirements of the most discerning collectors and chess masters. Jacques has recently announced the release of a limited edition series of 100 reproduction 1850 tournament style 4.4″ sets available in a custom leather casket that individually fits each piece within its own space to ensure safe storage and transport of this most prized heirloom. Collector’s editions from companies like Jaques are the future antiques – these are extremely high quality meticulously crafted works of art that have a 200+ year history of gaining value. This is another fine example of the investment potential of tangible and functional artwork – following the same philosophy we covered in our two part “Investment Grade Blades” articles.

Be sure to visit our Gaming Restoration Gallery for more information about our chess set restorations!

If you’re a chess set aficionado you may also want to check out the collection of Master Level Chess Player & Collector Jon Crumiller on his website: see if you can pick out the sets we restored … good luck! Jon is an avid collector and maintains a unique and diverse, ever updating, collection of chess sets from around the world. Artisans has been privileged to have conserved many of his prized possessions, in some cases providing the opportunity for future generations to enjoy sets that were neglected for decades now restored to their original glory.

Another great resource is Chess Collectors International: this organization is founded to focus on the interests of collectors around the world.

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