I have recently found a love of antique gaming markers. They are made of mother of pearl and were were handcrafted by artisans in China from circa 1700-1840. They were used for scoring and bidding in card games in the Western world and mainly created for trade with Great Britain, other European countries and the United States.
Fish gaming earrings: $445
Chinese mother-of-pearl gaming counters probably first came to Europe in around 1700 with the British East India Company boats when they began trading with China. As with many techniques of the old world, the techniques used by the Chinese are to this day, quite amazing. Even now, with today's technology, the intricate designs and techniques are hard to reproduce, and in my opinion, lack the subtle nuances that the ancient handwork has.
Gaming marker pendant with diamond, 14kw, $1,175 (front and back)
The history of counters, in its last period from 1820 to 1840, entered a distinctive phase. The supply of top quality shells for mother-of-pearl counter production was clearly very variable. It is often claimed that the very highest quality was seen between 1790 and 1800. By 1840, counters had become much enlarged, thicker, often had shallow- or deep-carved designs and may also have shown fretted (pierced) borders. This may have been a desperate attempt by the producers to attract more business at a time when social habits in Europe were moving away from card games which required counters (games such as Quadrille, Pope Joan etc.), towards the new craze for whist, which was scored using whist-markers, not counters. Demand seems to have stopped in around 1840. The craftsmen, suddenly redundant, adapted their skills to produce all manner of other decorative mother-of-pearl items – brooches, and fans for example.
Antique gaming marker pendant in antiqued sterling (front and back)
So, enjoy a sample of what I have created from these beautiful antiques, to be worn in the modern world...not at all what the makers of these markers intended. If you are interested, come choose from the loose markers I have, waiting to be transformed. Information gathered from www.chezbill.com