Expert Eye: Power Moves
Even the celebrated French fashion house Hermès (hermes.com) appreciates some healthy competition. Best known for its collectible silk scarves and handcrafted leather goods, the nearly 180-year-old brand also creates limited-edition board games using fine leather, wood, and precious materials. The first was a backgammon set that debuted in the 1950s. Later came an oversize chessboard and checkers set, and this year Hermès adds two more games to the shelf: a $41,400 inlaid rosewood and calfskin mah-jongg set and a $19,000 hand-carved mahogany peg solitaire game.
Mah-jongg’s present-day format is credited to 19th-century Shanghai noblemen; the name means “squabbling sparrows” in Mandarin and refers to the scuffling sound the wooden tiles make—like sparrows squabbling over food. The playing tiles in the Hermès set, which is 16 inches square when the box is closed, are made of leather and hand-painted with scorekeeping icons. “We wanted to bring a new sensuality to the game by changing the traditional sensations of sound and touch attached to many board games,” says Benoit Pierre Emery, creative director of the objects and tableware division. “The tiles are warm to the fingers. They create muffled sounds with each move—we love this leather sound.”
Peg solitaire also has an upper-crust origin story, though the 17th-century French aristocrat rumored to have invented the game was imprisoned at the time. The Hermès solitaire set includes 37 hand-carved mahogany marbles etched with facets that evoke a Médor stud, a design accent often applied to Hermès’s bags and accessories. Both game boards can be custom ordered in different tones of wood and leather.