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Reproduction and Real Jaques of London Chess Set

  • #1

    It seems like these sets are important enough and popular enough to warrant their own thread.  I'm especially interested in discussing the 4.4" club sized sets made from 1849 til the early 1900s.  It seems these sets are the "Ultimate" chess set to own in many people's opinion, including my own.  But if you think otherwise I'd love to hear your opinion about it!

    Now, real vintage Jaques sets range in price from "whoah that's expensive" to "that's more than I make in a year".  If you can find them for sale. For reference, here is the original 1849 set, photo credit Jon Crumiller from crumiller.com:
    There are several reproductions available on the internet right now.  Let's examine them, and talk about the accuracy, cost, and any personal experiences.

    The Chesss Piece offers this set:
    http://www.thechesspiece.com/proddetail.asp?prod=The-Original-Staunton-antiqued-in-ebony-and-antiqued-boxwood
    Looks like a pretty good match.  The Queen is appropriately short, as is the Rook.  And at 84 ounces it is well weighted, as it should be according to Alan Dewey who calls the original "massively weighted" (I don't know the actual weight of the real Jaques).  The antiqued wood is a nice touch. Price is $399.  A little high, but reasonable.

    Next is The Chess Store's "1849 Heirloom Staunton Chess Set"  in antiqued boxwood and ebony.

    Here

    Note here that the Rook is incorrectly taller than the Knight.  The only Jacques sets with tall Rooks like this were made of ivory rather than wood.  Perhaps they used an ivory set as reference material.  So it is up to the buyer to decide how he likes it.  The same is true here for the Queen being almost as tall as the king.  The overall weight for this set is not listed, but there are good reviews on the site.  Note also that The Chess Store offers 1850 and 1851 varieties of this design with small differences.  The prices range from $200 to $600, with the seeminly unpopular 1851 being offered in the 4" size at the lowest price (perhaps because of the rather fat jowled knight piece).

    House of Staunton offers its version, called "The Collector Series".
    http://www.houseofstaunton.com/the-collector-series-luxury-chess-set-4-4-king.html
    Not as explicitly marketed as a reproduction, but nonetheless the marketing materials reference " The Collector Series Luxury Chess set has been crafted to replicate the design and proportions of the original Staunton pattern Chessmen, registered by Nathaniel Cooke in March of 1849 and first manufactured by Jaques of London in September 1849".  This set is unique among the options here in that it is readily available in Boxwood and Shesham in addition to the standard boxwood/ebony combo.  There is a lot to be said about House of Staunton in terms of quality and communication, and I recommend you read some of the other threads in this forum to make your conclusions.  The price here is $799.  Quite high for a set that doesn't truly replicate the pieces to the level of the others shown here.  But HOS pieces have their own pedigree at this point, especially this series, and it will be a numbered set.  Note that this set does include the Kingside Rook and Knight stamping, not available on any other set featured so far. 

    Chess Bazaar has entered the market with its attempt at a true 1849 restoration, and it is looking good so far.
    http://www.chessbazaar.com/the-reproduction-staunton-series-1849-j-jaques-pattern-chess-pieces-in-antiqued-box-wood-ebony-4-4-king.html

    Rumor has it this set is being refined with the advisory of reknowned master wood turner, restorer, and chess historian Alan Dewey.  If this is true this set could surpass all others. But that remains to be seen.  At $250 the price is certainly right, and there is even the option for non-antiqued boxwood if you really want the real deal and want to wait around 100 years for the proper patina to set in ;).  The set weight of 77 ounces is nothing to sneer at, but couldn't it be heavier?  (or perhaps the old Jaques were lighter than I think?).

    Finally there is a lesser known company out there called Amritsar Ivory Works.  They do not have much of an online presence, instead serving as a manufacturer for some of the bigger chess distributors around the world.  However, after a little communication with the owner, he sent me this interesting photograph:
    Now it is my sneaking suspicion that this is a "real" Jaques set, in that Amritsar is the company making the officially licensed reproductions for Jaques (I'll get to that in a moment!).  The only thing missing is the stamp on the bottom of each king, the Kingside Rook and Knight Stamps, and all the fancy accoutrements that come along with the ones you buy straight from Jaques.  This set has also been given the antiqued wood appearance treatment, but seemingly to a much more convincing degree.  It really looks a century old!

    Speaking of real Jaques...
    http://www.jaqueslondon.co.uk/staunton-chess-set-mahogany.html
    If you want to dig deep in your pockets you can own an official Jaques continuation of the 1849 pattern.  Not a reproduction (no antiqued wood), but the same set, only made 165 years after.  The accuracy seems good, but not perfect, and certainly not as close as some of the others here.  Especially look at the pawns.  Those colllars look far too sturdy.  Price is £2,999.99, or $5,142.   Yikes.  But something tells me these photos might be misleading, and the reality is you're going to get the same set from Amritsar I linked above, which although it might be very nice and amazingly accurate, I don't see how anyone can justify the price for what amounts to a piece of paper and a little stamp. 

    And of course, the real deal:
    Another 1849, this time owned by Alan Dewey.  Occasionally he restores old sets and sells them on his ebay site.  The price matches the quality of his work, which is to say it is up to a very high standard.  But still less than the $5k you're going to spend on buying a new Jaques.  Worth it?  Worth every penny imo.  If I had the cash I'd buy from him in a second. 

    So what do you guys think? See anything I'm dead wrong about? Are you as obsessed with this particular set as I am?  Or do you hate it?  Any experiences playing on one? 

  • #2

    A wonderful essay. Thanks.

    -Izmet

  • #3

      Yes, a very nice and informative post. In my opinion most reproductions don't get the bases right. Most reproductions don't seem to flatten out the way the originals do.
      Actually, this isn't just limited to reproductions. Most sets these days seem to have fat, chunky bases. I'm not a fan of that feature. I'd rather have a lighter piece with a flatter base than a heavy piece with a fat base.

  • #4

    A very nice informative post. Gomer... I think the fat bases are needed for extra heavy weights to be put in them. Its a case of beuaty is in the eye of the beholder kind of thing.

  • #5

    Great post! That set from Amritsar Ivory Works looks great!

  • #6

    Excellent, thanks for posting.

  • #7

    May be off topic, but isn't the Jaques set a kind of Stauntun set? Also, I do see there are a hell lot of Stauntun sets on chess sites. They look very different from each other. Jaques sets here look very pleasing of course, but I am not for anything more than 4". Did Jaques of London (or its replicas) produced anything 3.75-4"?

    Pardon my ignorance, I am coming across fine sets only recently and I have not much of an idea about Stauntun sets. Here in India we used to get beautiful handcarved sets, which were very Indian and highly decorative and not at all stauntun. Now we don't get them anymore, I wonder why.

  • #8
    mirasma wrote:

    Did Jaques of London (or its replicas) produced anything 3.75-4"?

    The most common size for vintage Jaques sets is a 3.5" King. They did also produce a "small club size" set w/ a 4"K along with the large club size.

    Jack_Burton - very nice post. I would only add that the 1849 design went through immediate evolutions - a 1850 Jaques set w/ Morphy knights looks quite different than the two 1849 Jaques versions (Cooke Type 1 and Type 2). I personally prefer the Morphy knights, but am not lucky enough to own one. I do have a Jaques from 1853 w/ Paulsen knights and a Jaques from the late 1850s, along with later sets from the second half of the century. 

    As far as replica sets are concerned, you failed to mention the HoS Cooke set, which I think is much closer to the 1849 design than their Collector set. I have the original version of the HoS Cooke set (they later introduced a newer version) and it's a lovely set as well as cheaper than the Collector.

  • #9
    Gomer_Pyle wrote:

      Yes, a very nice and informative post. In my opinion most reproductions don't get the bases right. Most reproductions don't seem to flatten out the way the originals do.
      Actually, this isn't just limited to reproductions. Most sets these days seem to have fat, chunky bases. I'm not a fan of that feature. I'd rather have a lighter piece with a flatter base than a heavy piece with a fat base.

    I noticed that, and it drives me mad.  Sets from Chess Bazaar especially tend to be like this.   The ring just above the base never seems quite defined enough, and it's apparent on their reproduction.  I really, really hope they fix this in the next revision. 

    You can also note the difference in the mane of the Knight pieces among these sets.  The Jaques sets have a modest mane, and it doesn't stick out.  Again on the Chess Bazaar and HOS sets the mane sticks out like a "tail" over the base!  It should not be like that. 

    FrankHelwig wrote:
    mirasma wrote:

    Did Jaques of London (or its replicas) produced anything 3.75-4"?

    The most common size for vintage Jaques sets is a 3.5" King. They did also produce a "small club size" set w/ a 4"K along with the large club size.

    Jack_Burton - very nice post. I would only add that the 1849 design went through immediate evolutions - a 1850 Jaques set w/ Morphy knights looks quite different than the two 1849 Jaques versions (Cooke Type 1 and Type 2). I personally prefer the Morphy knights, but am not lucky enough to own one. I do have a Jaques from 1853 w/ Paulsen knights and a Jaques from the late 1850s, along with later sets from the second half of the century. 

    As far as replica sets are concerned, you failed to mention the HoS Cooke set, which I think is much closer to the 1849 design than their Collector set. I have the original version of the HoS Cooke set (they later introduced a newer version) and it's a lovely set as well as cheaper than the Collector.

    I did know about the Cooke set, but I didn't see a 4.4" version listed on the HOS website.  It might have been retired. I asked the online support at the site if they had any information, and they weren't even sure if they ever produced it in that size.   They're going to get back to me with more info.

  • #10
    Jack_Burton wrote:
    I did know about the Cooke set, but I didn't see a 4.4" version listed on the HOS website. 

    I believe they only ever produced this set w/ a 3.6" K (original) and a 3.5" K (new version), so if you were only considering club-size replicas, then that omission makes perfect sense.

  • #11

    HOS only produced the Cooke pieces in 3.6" and later 3.5" they never issued a larger version.

  • #12

    Nice post.

    I am probably never going into that kind of business - I could afford one in a lifetime if I really wanted to, but I use chessboards to play chess, so anything that looks nice, is weighted adequately and doesn't break when dropped off one meter is fine for me - but still, it was a good read.

  • #13
    Irontiger wrote:

    Nice post.

    I am probably never going into that kind of business - I could afford one in a lifetime if I really wanted to, but I use chessboards to play chess, so anything that looks nice, is weighted adequately and doesn't break when dropped off one meter is fine for me - but still, it was a good read.

    Well, since there seems to be a slight uptick in the popularity of this design (probably due to Alan Dewey) it means more sets are going to be made, and that also means that eventually these sets will be seen on ebay, craigslist, and the like.  The $250 set may come down as far as $150 in a few years if the buyer is willing to look around a bit.

    As far as playablity goes...well, it's one of the best.  I regularly play over the board with my 4.8" slightly-enlarged club size set (which is a very Jaques-esque design), and it's a sheer pleasure. 

    Sometimes on my 3" board (with black and red squares because that's all I got).
    And sometimes on my 2.75" board that I made to suit the set better :
    (nevermind the position, it's meaningless post-mortem movements)
    Sometimes I have read people have problems "seeing" the entire board on this size, but it rather helps me.  And I've found it is especially helpful in the social aspect of playing.  People are much more likely to come over and chat a bit, or want to try their hand at the game if they see a group playing on a fine set.  Wood is an exotic material to many people these days.  If they see plastic pieces and a roll up vinyl board the game can come across as a bit small-time, and the domain of "gamers".  But a nice boxwood and shesham/ebony set is Real Chess to these people, and they enjoy the  bit of theatricality that comes from it.

  • #14
    mirasma wrote:

    May be off topic, but isn't the Jaques set a kind of Stauntun set?

    Jaques of London created the first Staunton set. It quickly became the most popular design because the pieces are easily recognized. Later it became the only design approved by FIDE for tournaments. There are many variations of the design but they all have the main characteristics in common, which are mainly horses for knights, towers for rooks, and stylized hats (crowns, miters, helmets or heads) above collars for the rest of the pieces.

    Here's a short history from the Jaques America site.
    http://www.jaquesamerica.com/chess/history

  • #15

    Something I've always been curious about - are specific Staunton designs patented? I know the original Cooke design from 1849 was patented, but I don't know if that patent is still in effect. I read the other day that HoS deploys a legal team to enforce patents on some of their designs, so that implies makers can and are still actively patenting specific Staunton variations... Similarly, are retailers that are offering replicas of the 1849 set paying royalties/license fees to JoL?

    Just curious.

  • #16

    I'd say the patent on the pre-1900 sets has run out a long time ago.  So I doubt any of the retailers are paying royalties to Jaques.  There are usually small enough differences in the sets (like not using screw-in weights) that I'm not sure if the patent law would even apply. 

    The trademark might be another story.  Jaques might still have the rights to the "Staunton Chessmen", and everybody else has to call it a "Staunton pattern" (other than House of Staunton who seems to pay for this privilege). 

    Another note about accuracy: the number of points on the Queen.  On the earliest Jaques sets it was 8 points, and later changed to 10.  Some sets I've looked at online have up to 13! 

    from crumiller.com
    https://picasaweb.google.com/100450293480257053343/Three184950SetsCompared?noredirect=1#5581802253303538034
    "The tops, left to right: 1849; 1849/50; 1850/51. Note that the 1849 coronet has only 8 points."

    Green felt is very nice, but the original sets used baize.  Baize is a more coarse, woolen material than the billiard cloth used today.  And personally, I'd like it if someone incorporated these little identification stickers:

    Of course, they'd need to be updated to reflect the current date and manufacturer. 

    And to go even further down the road of intense accuracy it must be mentioned that the black Knight head pieces of the first few years were all made of ebonized boxwood, not true ebony.  And they were screwed on, not glued.

    Add these differences up with some others (the screw-in weights I mentioned, the Kingside stamping) and you're starting to have some "near perfect reproductions" that aren't really that near perfect all.  But, it's coming along, and I'm hoping for some of these things to be incorporated in the future. 

  • #17

    I don't think they screwed in the lead weights but rather poured in molten lead, which is why so many of the old weighted sets developed cracks...especially in the ebony pieces. I have a Jaques ebony set from ~1860 and another from ~1900, both are unweighted and neither have any cracks. I messaged with the folks at Chessbazaar and they confirmed the above information...they gave a release date of approximately two weeks. Looking forward to that. Jack_Burton, I'm working on posting some pics of the 1849 repro set from Chessbazaar as requested...please bear with me : )

  • #18

    These sets make me drool and maybe I can afford that $400 . set from the chess piece .  I do not like sets in which the rook is taller than the knight so this rules certain sets out for me . You need a nice chess table for such nice sets !  The best place for tables that I know of is :  http://www.thebestchesstables.com/catalog/

  • #19
    strngdrvnthng wrote:

    I don't think they screwed in the lead weights but rather poured in molten lead,

    Actually, I'm pretty sure they screwed them in. On vintage Jaques sets, you can actually see the tool marks in the weight that were used to screw it in.

  • #20

    Frank, are you sure those marks are not peen marks? I checked my Jaques bible by Alan Fersht but I can't find any mention of how the pieces were weighted. Best wishes, John C.

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