Chess is one of the most popular pastimes in the world and is played by a large number of people (especially in the US, UK, Germany, Russia and India) on a competitive level. The deep-rooted admiration for the game stems from its attributes of intelligence, strategy and complexity, and as a sophisticated medium to showcase superior brain power. Chess has a rich history that can be traced back to the 6th century in India, where it was known as ‘chaturanga’ in its earliest form. The different chess pieces viz. pawns, rooks, knights, bishop, queens and kings, have undergone several reinterpretations in history, reflecting the contemporary societal norms and cultures prevalent during a particular period. Despite changes in language, culture or generation, the standard form of the game can be easily recognized anywhere in the world. For chess lovers, owning an exquisitely designed chess set is akin to possessing a rare collectible item- the more expensive it is, the higher the satisfaction. Here, we take a look at the 10 most expensive chess sets in the world, some of them which are so breathtakingly beautiful you might be tempted to sell off all your possessions just to own one-
10. Veneziani Medioevali Gold and Silver Chess Set- $30,515
This beauty by Pianki is fully hand crafted and made from 24 karat gold and silver, with solid bronze interiors. The board is carved of onyx with gold and silver embellishments and the pieces are intricately designed to reflect the essence of the medieval era, with the entire set having the personal signature of the sculptor. The extraordinary attention to detail in every piece, be it a pawn or a queen, makes this chess set a labor of love and a wonderful work of art.
9. Renault F1 Team Collection Chess Set- $41,600
F1 and chess seem like strange bedfellows- one is about brute speed and skills, while the other is more about precision and strategy. The Renault F1 chess set, however, beautifully weaves the two with its sleek design and pieces made from stainless steel, carbon fiber, aluminum and titanium- the materials used to build a Formula 1 Renault car. The pieces are in the form of suspension, uprights, wings, hubs and cockpit sittings, and the carbon board is smartly designed with a bit of friction, thus tempting players with an illusion to move across the track aggressively to outrace your opponent.
8. Royal Silver Jubilee Chess Set- $78,000
This set was originally created in 1977 by Geoffrey Parker for the celebration of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Reflecting a look that imbibes both minimal art and luxury, the royal jubilee silver chess set has the board and pieces made of pure sterling silver, while gold coating can be added for an additional fee. The original set also has a Silver Jubilee Hallmark notation on every piece, which truly makes it a much-vaunted collector’s item. This set won the Design Counsel Award in London and has also received the thumbs up from the US Chess Federation.
7. Carolingians and Moors Chess Set- $96,100
Another marvelous ornate chess set from that pays homage to medieval yore, this piece depicts the Frankish Moorish wars with intricately crafted (using the lost wax method of casting) knights, griffons and royals in solid bronze plated with 24 karat gold. The board is made of onyx, and has bronze and marble inlays. Every piece has been molded with great attention to detail and has the personal signature of the sculptor.
6. Benzoni’s Carolingi XIV Chess Set- $113,580
Similar to the Carolingians and Moors chess set, this magnificent piece showcases the Turkish-Carolingian battles of the ancient 9th century. The pieces are designed in a historically accurate manner (complete with detailed period attire) and made from the lost wax method, with a bronze core and adorned with plated sterling silver and 24 karat gold. The board is silver lined, and has a polished marble surface. There is also an accompanying chess table made of onyx- the entire set looks like a showpiece that you would rather display proudly than actually use it for game play.
5. 250th Anniversary Baccarat Crystal Chess Set- $287,700
The French-based luxury crystal glassware company Baccarat is renowned for its incredible perfection in the field of glass work. To celebrate its 250th anniversary, the company created one of the most innovative chess sets ever with all the pieces representing their iconic glass designs over years. This board can also be used for an extremely refined version of a drinking game- pour out the bubbly in each glass and drink until checkmate. The aesthetics of this set are a sight to behold and will be well-appreciated by lovers of fine taste. Japanese company Oki Sato has also made consumer versions of this set for a tenth of the price of the original.
4. Hollander Royal Diamond Chess Set- $600,000
Charles Hollander is a company that is associated with opulence and ultra-luxurious items, and its Royal Diamond chess set by French artist and jewelry maker Bernard Maquin is no exception. An astounding combination of lavish aesthetics and beauty, this set was designed and hand created in not less than 4,500 hours. The traditionally-shaped pieces are made of white gold or yellow gold, and are adorned with diamonds, while the 180 karat plus board is studded with 9,900 black and white diamonds.
3. J. Grahl Dedication to Cole Chess Set- $700,000
This spectacular set, originally designed by Jim Grahl in 1972, is available as a custom made replica for $450,000. Each piece is made from solid silver and 14-karat gold, and reflects a highly detailed medieval aesthetic. The chess board is crafted from ebony wood embellished with sterling silver and is exquisitely carved to perfection. For every cash splurge-worthy connoisseur appreciative of the finer things in life, this is a delightful addition.
2. Scharstein’s Art of War Chess Set- $750,000
Whether you are a military strategist or working in the corporate field, Sun Tzu’s Art of War is a treatise considered as a must-read for anyone interested in mastering the art of strategy. This Art of War set by Victor F. Scharstein is made from solid gold and rare gems, with each set piece having an Asian influence and studded with rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds. The ebony board is a wondrous thing of beauty, with its legs, hinges, handle and key crafted of gold and adorned with gems.
1. Jewel Royale Chess Set- $1.3 million
We have seen some magnificent chess sets in this list but none is as expensive as the Jewels Royale Chess set. Awash with precious jewels and gems, this set by Bespoke jewelry design house Boodle and Jewel Royale is the epitome of royalty and regal style. There has been much controversy over this set, with rumors tagging the initial price at an astounding $9.8 million. The confusion was later dispelled by Boodles, which stated that the entire set was available on commission for $1,327,515, with the order taking four months to complete and ship.