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Q: Please help identify big ornate silvery antique ( Answered,   2 Comments )
Subject: Please help identify big ornate silvery antique
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: irfeld-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 01 Jun 2002 20:42 PDT
Expires: 01 Jul 2002 20:42 PDT
Question ID: 20158
I'm trying to identify an interesting antique. I don't know what it is
or how old it is.  It belongs to a friend, and I want to help her find
out what it is and if it has any value.   It was given to her by
someone who said it is old, and that it came from Spain.
It is about the size of a table lamp.  That is a yardstick in the
picture with it.  It is hollow and
completely covered with ornate images.  It has a round lid on the top
that is connected by a chain, and lifts off.  It is silver colored.
The curved things on the sides look
like maybe snakes or dragons.  The thing in the middle looks somewhat
crab-like.  The whole thing is incredibly ornate and complex.  Here is
a URL with a picture of this item:
Subject: Re: Please help identify big ornate silvery antique
Answered By: huntsman-ga on 02 Jun 2002 00:55 PDT

This is a hookah, or water pipe, which has been used by generations of
tobacco smokers in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Depending on the
style and country of origin, it might also be called a "narghila" or

Since it uses a dragon motif, it may be more Asian -- Indian, Chinese,
etc. -- than Arabic in origin.

How It Works -

Looking at your photograph
(, it appears to me
that the large, Lifesaver-shaped body is a water tank, mounted on a
pyramid-shaped base. Since the base is a different color than the
body, perhaps it was added or replaced after the water pipe was
originally made.

The tapered central tube extending upwards from the body holds
flavored tobacco under the domed lid at the top. A piece of smoldering
charcoal is placed on top of the tobacco and the lid is closed. Smoke
collects in the main tube, above the water in the main body.

Two smokers inhale through mouthpieces on hoses attached to the small
tubes coming out of the noses of the hollow, dragon-shaped handles.
This draws the tobacco smoke down through the central tube, through
the water (which filters and cools the smoke), then back up through
the dragon handles, hoses, and mouthpieces.

Appraisals -

I suggest you contact the hookah shops referenced below: they should
be able to give the name of a knowledgeable appraiser. You might also
contact any specialist smoking or tobacco shops in your area.

Before talking to an appraiser, write down some accurate overall
measurements. It would also help to take (and post) additional
photographs that clearly show the various parts, designs and overall
condition of the water pipe.

Check the pipe all over for any type of inscription, engraving, date,

References -


Hookah On The Net

Sahara Smoke Company

Commercial Pipe Links

Search Terms -
- hookah
- water pipe

Request for Answer Clarification by irfeld-ga on 02 Jun 2002 06:50 PDT
I can see how this might look like a hooka (although it would be an
unusually HUGE one), but the problem is, the ornate design includes a
multitude of holes.  In other word, this thing, whatever it is, could
not hold water or any other liquid.  In fact, my own weird guess of
what it might be, was that it was made to hold snakes, for some kind
of ritual or something.  But that is just based on the fact that it is
covered with holes, and that it has decorations that look like snakes.
  Given this additional information, do you still think it could be a
P.S.  I didn't notice any residue of smoke - either by sight or by
smell, on this item.

Clarification of Answer by huntsman-ga on 02 Jun 2002 09:54 PDT

My original thought was that the water tank is Lifesaver-shaped with a
decorative, pierced metal plate covering the central hole. From your
photograph, it is difficult to tell if there are holes in any other

You mentioned that this item is "about the size of a table lamp",
which doesn't seem to be excessively large. For example, note the
overall size of these Iranian hookahs:

Hookah Shop

I also thought that the internal construction would be basically
similar to the following examples:

World Smorking [sic] Articles
"Water Pipes"

Bong Design Page

Your item seems like a pretty awkward container for holding snakes.
You could drop them in from the top, but exactly how would you get
them out? A short, wide-mouthed vase or basket would be safer, more
accessible, and easier on the snakes. Note what the experts use:

Snake Charmer in Kathmandu, Nepal

I still think it is a hookah of some type. Due to the ornate design,
perhaps yours was mainly decorative or was never used.

Subject: Re: Please help identify big ornate silvery antique
From: xemion-ga on 01 Jun 2002 22:33 PDT
I would recommend that you visit an antique shop or use an online
antique appraisal service.  Google Answer researchers tend to be
highly skilled at finding information on the internet.  However, your
particular question will more than likely require an expert at
antiques who actually can identify the object.  For example, if you
knew the object was a "spanish dragon vace" (I just made that up), we
could search for a "spanish dragon vace".  But we really can't do that
in this instance.

Hopefully, someone here will be able to help you.  But if not, here
are some links to some online antiuq appraisal services:

Good luck!
Subject: Re: Please help identify big ornate silvery antique
From: politicalguru-ga on 02 Jun 2002 00:05 PDT
You can learn more on doing an appraisal here:

I recommend that you'll avoid doing an appraisal online. A responsible
expert should touch the object to see if it comprehends with the
period, to look at small details, etc.

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