Discover the 9 Best Antique Chess Sets Ever Produced

Chess, known as the "game of kings," has captivated players for centuries. While its exact origin remains unknown, it is believed to have originated in 6th-century India as 'Chaturanga' before migrating to Persia and then medieval Europe, evolving in both pieces and rules of chess along the way. Today, chess is played worldwide. However, complete or even incomplete sets dating before the 17th century are exceedingly rare.

9 Best Rare And Antique Chess Sets Ever Produced

9. Russian Chess Set

Russian Chess Set

  • Time: Late 18th century
  • Origin: Russia
  • Medium: Walrus ivory, wood, walnut

This exceptional Russian Chess Set has its roots in Kholmogory, a town celebrated for its skilled carvers during the late 1700s. Notably distinct from modern configurations, this set symbolizes the divide between Christian and Muslim Russians through distinctive styles rather than colors. The unique design elements include a vizier in place of a queen, ships as rooks, and an elephant representing the bishop's piece, creating a captivating blend of cultural symbolism and artistic craftsmanship.

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8. Indian Chess Set

Indian Chess Set

  • Time: Late 18th century
  • Origin: India
  • Medium: Elephant ivory

This decorative ivory antique chess set likely wasn't created for playing purposes. Reflecting the political realities of the time, it features opposing sides representing Indians and British. Rajahs represent the kings on both sides, riding on elephants. Surprisingly, the traditional elephant or bishop is replaced by a lion on the British side and a rhinoceros on the Indian side. Knights are represented by a British cavalryman and an Indian cameleer, while British and Indian soldiers represent the pawns.

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7. Lewis (Uig) Chessmen

Lewis Chess Set

  • Time: 12th century
  • Origin: Norway
  • Medium: Walrus tusk

Discovered in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in 1891, the Lewis Chessmen were originally thought to have originated in Trondheim, the medieval capital of Norway, which ruled the Hebrides during that period. Consisting of 79 pieces, including multiple kings, queens, and other chess pieces from various sets, it is speculated that they may have been part of a merchant's inventory lost while traveling from Norway to Ireland.

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6. Charlemagne Chess Set

Charlemagne Chess Set

  • Time: c. 1100
  • Origin: Italy
  • Medium: Elephant ivory

Although Emperor Charlemagne lived three centuries before this antique chess set was made and likely never played chess, these exquisite ivory pieces bear his name. Created in Salerno, Italy, in the latter quarter of the 11th century, the set was believed to be a gift to a French king, possibly Philip II or Philip III. It was housed in Saint-Denis Abbey in Naples from the 13th century until the late 18th century, after which many pieces were lost during the French Revolution.

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5. Persian Chess Set

Persian Chess Set

  • Date: Late 11th to early 12th century
  • Origin: Iran
  • Medium: Fritware, molded and glazed

Considered one of the earliest complete rare antique chess set in the world, the Persian chess set features discrete and round shapes, likely influenced by Islamic prohibition against representing human forms in art. The shah (king) and firzan (queen) are represented by stylized thrones, while the bishop (fils) is depicted as an elephant, a common feature in pre-European sets. The farms (knights) are represented by a horse. This style has been associated with chess sets not only in the Middle East but also in Europe for centuries.

4. Ager Chessmen

Ager Chessmen

  • Time: 1021
  • Origin: Possibly Egypt
  • Medium: Rock crystal

It is believed that chess may have been introduced to Muslim Spain from Baghdad in the 9th century, spreading throughout Europe. The Ager Chessmen, discovered in Ager, Spain, suggested origins outside of Spain, possibly in Egypt. Sadly, this antique chess set has been separated, with some pieces lost entirely. The remaining pieces are located in Ager, Lerida (Spain), and Kuwait, with the Emir of Kuwait acquiring some during the late 19th-century auction.

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3. Mozarab Chess Set

Mozarab Chess Set

  • Time: 10th Century
  • Origin: Found in Leon, Spain
  • Medium: Deer antler

Also known as the pieces of Saint Genadio, the Mozarab chess pieces are believed to date back to the first decade of the 10th century. The term "Mozarab" refers to Spanish Christians who lived under Muslim rule from the 8th to 11th centuries. These pieces were attributed to Genadio de Astorga, a Christian bishop, and are currently cared for by the Monastery of San Miguel de la Escalada in Leon, Spain.

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2. Venafro Chess Set

Venafro Chess Set

  • Time: 885-1017 CE
  • Origin: Europe
  • Medium: Deer antler

Discovered in 1932, the Venafro Chess Set is a remarkable find that traces its origins back to the 9th-11th centuries. Considered by some to be the earliest chessmen in Europe, these 19 pieces were uncovered within the confines of a much older Roman tomb. The Venafro Chess Set's discovery within an ancient Roman tomb adds a fascinating layer of archaeological context to its historical significance. This find not only highlights the enduring popularity of chess throughout the centuries but also offers a glimpse into the interconnectedness of different civilizations and their shared appreciation for the game.

1. Afrasiab Chessmen

Afrasiab Chess Set

  • Time: 700-760 CE
  • Origin: Uzbekistan
  • Medium: Elephant ivory

Considered the oldest known antique chess set, the Afrasiab Chessmen were found in modern-day Uzbekistan at the Afrasiab excavation site. Dating back to the early 8th century, these ivory pieces include a king, vizier (queen), chariot (rook), elephant (bishop), horse (knight), and two soldiers (pawns).

Summing Up

These antique chess sets offer a glimpse into the rich history of the game, showcasing artistic craftsmanship and cultural influences. From Russia to India, Norway to Uzbekistan, each set tells a unique story. They serve as a testament to the enduring fascination and universal appeal of chess throughout the ages. These nine antique chess sets represent a fascinating glimpse into the history and artistic craftsmanship associated with this timeless game.

Explore the above mention chess sets & checkmate your shopping list at Royal Chess Mall today! Royal Chess Mall offers a premium selection of Chess pieces, Chess boards, Dubrovnik chess set, luxury chess set including Staunton chess setStaunton chess pieces, chess tables enhancing the chess-playing experience with high-quality, elegant options.

Also, for those seeking contemporary elegance, consider the minimalist chess set, a sleek fusion of form and function. Safeguard your cherished pieces in a purpose-built storage box for chess pieces, or elevate your game with a tournament chess set. Alternatively, indulge in the timeless beauty of a marble chess set, where every move is a masterpiece.