CH400 Bertram Jones ivory Staunton set
Oct 22, 2014Public
Photo: CH400 An ivory Staunton set: Kings- 3.9in high

An elegant set, with fairly thin-stemmed Kings.  The pieces (with the exception of the knights) are joined by good quality ivory screw-threads.

One pawn's ball finial is missing, but other than this and a few minor 'nibbles' the set is in good condition. The seller told me that it had been bought by her father in 1958. At the time he ran a stall in a London market, but kept a number of items for himself and the family. Whether it was new at that point is unknown.
Photo: CH400 - white side, 'family' view
Photo: CH400 - Knights

The horse-heads differ slightly and slightly resemble the late C19th Canton knights - with a large, slightly bulbous chest.

The heads are attached to the bases with metal screws that look to be original. Like the rest of the set, the pieces are made from solid ivory - unlike the Cantonese sets, which often use 'hollow' 'can waste' ivory (mostly, if not all, recovered ancient mammoth ivory).

Whilst I quite like these knights (they feel very good in the hand), they do stand out a bit from the more simplistic design of the rest of the set.
Photo: CH400 - the box the set came in: mahogany with a stained plywood lid that has the MacKett Beeson stamp as shown on its inside.

AEJ MacKett Beeson was a well-known London chess dealer. He wrote the book 'Chessmen' as shown, published in 1968  - I bought a copy in the early 1970's, long before I became involved in chess collecting, and was amazed at the different styles 'available'. With the benefit of hindsight, and the increased research opportunities afforded by the internet, we now know that many of MB's descriptions and comments on sets were not correct, however (this state of affairs is quite common with these early chess books).
Photo: The Jones family - 5-generations (three shown here) of 'bone grubbers' as ivory & hardwood turners were known.

Most of the images here are 'borrowed' from Bill Jones 2nd book - "Further Notes from the Turning Shop" (both books are well worth reading). 

Although making chessmen was not their main line - as with most chess producers down the ages - the books illustrate turning techniques with a number of chessmen and contain Bill's thoughts etc in his own inimitable style, together with quotes from various letters from Bertram).

The left-centre image is of Bertram with an ornate set standing outside his home, Vine Cottage at Badsey, from which he worked (usually alone). The right-centre image shows Bertram with two sets - one a Staunton set considered further in the next image.
Photo: Comparison of the set with that shown in the larger of the two photos of Bertram Jones (previous image, left-hand side).

Although the pieces are not identical in design, there are, I would say, sufficient similarities (especially the King, Rook & Knight) to conclude that they are most likely to have been made by the same person - Bertram Jones (although his son, Bill, is a possibility - see 1st comment below).

The pawn in the photo looks more like that shown in the set in the next image. Was Jones experimenting, or is this a melange of pieces?

It is known that Jones made and supplied chess sets to major London chess dealers, including Mackett-Beeson and Alex Hammond.

The 'true' BJ set is also not dissimilar to the ivory set sold by 'Chess' and shown here: I wonder if the Jones' made those for Chess?
Photo: An ivory set owned by fellow collector/Picasan Peter Armit:

Alan Dewey left a comment there that he believed this to be a Jones set - and, although it is very different to my CH400, I would agree: the knight's face and incised mane are near identical, as are the King's crosses.  The knights heads on Peter's set are similarly connected by metal screw-thread, whilst all other parts have nice ivory threads, as on my set. The pawn (and 'bits' of the bishop) is similar to that shown in the set in the BJ photo shown earlier.

I wonder how many sets the Jones' made? 

In another of his letters to Bill, Bertram said "I....have faked up and completed plenty of such sets  (antique of course). I don't think you would sell them only as repros of antique sets" ! My exclamation.  Neither Bill nor Bertram sold their sets as antique, but at least Bertram appears to have been unconcerned what his direct clients (such as Mackett-Beeson/Hamond) did with them!
Photo: A metal set that has been brought to my attention - photo's courtesy of Victor.

Unlike most such sets, this appears not to be made of lead - the King is only 80gm in weight, so it may be aluminium. The majority of pieces look to be turned, not cast, and, as can be seen, some are made in several parts.   It is housed in a simple, purpose-made, fitted case. 

K = c.92mm, and as can be seen, is made in three parts

It is clearly based on Peter Armit's  Bertram Jones' set (or a slight variation - see next image). Peter's set is the same size.
Photo: Metal set - red & white pieces, plus a comparison image of Peter's set.

Some pieces are different in design (especially the Q & R) - it makes you wonder if this was because BJ varied his sets 'at whim' as he worked - but the 'origin/inspiration' of the metal set seems clear.

I wonder if Bertram got any royalties or other payment for the design!
Photo: Further set by Bertram Jones

as shown in Bill Jones' "Further Notes" book
Photo: Further set by Bertram Jones

as shown in Bill Jones' "Further Notes" book
Photo: Further set by Bertram Jones

as shown in Bill Jones' "Further Notes" book
Photo: Knights from the previous three BJ sets