Amber Stems and Peterson's Amber Spigot Line

Amber: What is it, why was it used for pipe stems, and why isn't it still used for pipe stems? These questions come up because recently we had a special batch of pipes from Peterson, all bearing, yes, actual amber stems.

What is amber?

Amber is a gem that is not a stone; it is fossilized, but not mineralized, and since time immemorial it has been highly prized. In less flowery terms, it's tree resin which, under the right conditions, became buried, and with the right combination of time (lots of it), pressure, and temperature, was preserved and hardened. From there it may be found and cut and polished for some uses, or refined and reformed for others. The latter process gave us the main sort once used in pipe stems, which pipe makers or specialized pipe-stem makers acquired as plates from which stems were cut and carefully shaped.

Why was amber first used for stems?

That is anyone's guess; probably because it looks pretty. Possibly its long and wide-spanning traditional association with medicinal properties (now doubtful) also gave it a start. Either way a pipe with an amber stem became the thing to have, easy to spot, refined, delicate: a stem that was a gem.

Why did other materials replace it?

Amber is delicate. It was also less convenient for pipe makers (or those who supplied pipe makers) to work with, being much more specific and intensive in what is needed to shape it than, say, rods of vulcanite. Very rarely you'll hear of an independent artisan of our day having made a pipe stem or two from amber, but as for the rest we find, they are as a rule antiques, survivors; that small percentage of pipes with amber stems made in distant decades past that remain intact.

Sykes and Shane discuss the vintage amber used in Peterson's Amber Spigot line.

Peterson of course has actually been around since those decades past, and like the few other marques that can trace their history so far back, they tend to have some odd treasures buried in the more obscure corners of their storage. That's where the amber stems on Peterson's Amber Spigot line come from: the past. Specifically, 1939 (a rather late date for amber stems; they would have been a specialty item even then), which we know because the folks at Peterson also found the paperwork that went with them. There was naturally nothing else to do but make a limited run of special pipes to suit these stems, which is just what Peterson did.


    • Bryan Webber on December 28, 2016
    • The stems look absolutely fantastic against the natural colors.

    • August Kund on December 30, 2016
    • This pipe is so beautiful in person. While the drawl is not as open as I would have liked, it's still a good smoker but a little wet compared to my other pipes. Nevertheless I am keeping this pipe for it's historical value.

    • Timothy R Rothgeb on January 2, 2017
    • Always loved Petersons but these are at the top of my list.

    • Dan on May 23, 2017
    • Where it is possible to buy? Does it have space to insert a 9mm filter?

    • Adam O'Neill on May 23, 2017
    • @Dan Our site, but we don't have any right now, as these were a limited run. We're hoping to have more in the future though. And no, they don't take a 9mm filter.

    • Paul Davies on July 24, 2017
    • I have recently acquired what I believe to be one of these beautiful & rare pipes, a sandblasted 03. I would like to verify it is one you originally sold. What is the best way to send you pics? Thanks.

    • Adam O'Neill on July 24, 2017
    • @Paul Davies Hi Paul. If you send your pictures to [email protected] someone can definitely help you out with that.

    • Josh S on December 17, 2017
    • I recently picked up one of these bc, well I had to. The pipe itself is the best Pete I’ve bought to date, and I’ve bought more than a few. With the normal stem, it smokes very well. The amber is a bit more suited to a slow contemplative smoke. All in all, I couldn’t have been happier unless they used 100$ bills for bubble wrap haha.

    • Adam O'Neill on December 18, 2017
    • @Josh S Haha, we'll bear that in mind for next time ;)

      Glad you like it, Josh. And thanks for weighing in!

    • Rex on May 4, 2023
    • Hello there,Could you tell me how to clean, preserve and protect your Amber stems in a safe way?I understand Amber is very delicate and reacts negatively to alcohol based cleaners.I also would like to know what can I apply for protection…olive oil? Obsidian oil?Thanks in advance.H. Mancini

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