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Robb Design Portfolio: Pipe Dream

This is one pipe dream very unlikely to go up in smoke, given the anticipated reluctance of potential owners to put a match to such a rare briar. The platinum-banded, diamond-inlaid pipe was fashioned in London by Alfred Dunhill Ltd., the most coveted brand among serious pipe collectors.

This flawless specimen of British craftsmanship was hand-carved from a perfect piece of straight-grained Mediterranean briar, an extreme rarity in nature. In fact, less than one pipe in a hundred achieves the straight-grained grade. Those that do, Dunhill has divided into six ascending Dead Root (or DR) grades. Dead Root is an ancient hardened burl wood, and its grades range from one to six stars. Few pipes rate five stars, fewer still qualify for six, and hardly any exceed that level of quality. When this height of excellence is achieved, the stars are replaced by one of two lettered designations: DRG or DRH. The latter—the absolute rarest classification of burl—is a perfect straight grain, the natural vertical, closely spaced lines of which encircle the entire circumference of the pipe bowl.

“[This is] the finest straight-grained pipe I have ever seen during 50 years of grading,” exclaims Richard Dunhill, president of the company (and grandson of Alfred). Nearly 10 carats of diamonds and 126 grams of platinum complete this extraordinary pipe, which is available from Alfred Dunhill Ltd. (212.888.4000) for $150,000.

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