Image: Men play chess in the streets of New York, 1980s. Source: Getty.

Novelty Games: 10 of the Most Expensive Chess Sets Ever Made

One of the world’s most popular games, Chess, dates back to the 15th century. Played by millions of people worldwide, the current version of the game began in Southern Europe after evolving from similar, much older games of Indian and Persian origin. Nowadays chess is played at home, online, in chess clubs and professionally in tournaments.

The popularity of chess is largely thanks to its accessibility; all you need is two players and a chess set. Although the 8×8 square grid remains universal, beautifully designed chess sets are now far more than a novelty. Some of the most expensive chess boards have fetched hundreds of thousands of dollars and the world’s most expensive chess set is worth A$4 million. Here’s an impressive look at some of the most expensive chess sets ever made.

Art of War Chess Set

Price: Estimated at over A$900,000

It’s fair to say there isn’t any expensive chess set like the Art of War. This one-of-a-kind set designed by Victor F. Scharstein is influenced by Asain design and Sun Tzu’s Art of War. The pieces are hand-crafted from solid gold and encrusted with rubies, emeralds, diamonds and sapphires. The board itself is a fine piece of work on its own, made from ebony wood with legs, hinges and handles carved from solid gold and including even more gems. Another unique aspect of this set is the price is only an estimate. With only one in existence, the set has only been to auction once and Victor F. Scharstein turned down the only offer of over US$700,000.

Royal Diamond Chess Set

Price: Over A$650,000

When a French jewellery artist and a luxury goods producer come together, you know the piece is going to be something stunning. Bernard Maquin is the mastermind and Charles Hollander is the company behind this expensive chessboard, made in 2005. The magnificently handcrafted pieces are made from 14-carat white gold encrusted with almost 10,000 black and white diamonds. It’s not just the lavish materials that bolster the price, it’s the time involved. Maquin and his team of 30 craftsmen put in over 4,500 hours making this unique chess set.

Pearl Royale Chess Set

Price: A$4 Million

The claim of the most expensive chess set ever goes to the Jewel Royale Chess Set. Created by the Australian artist and goldsmith Colin Burn, this stunning set is worth A$4 million. The incredibly luxurious materials are partly the reason behind the high value; the pieces are made of 18-carat white gold, decorated with black and white South Sea pearls and covered with 513-carat diamonds and blue sapphires. The king alone is an 18-carat yellow gold piece adorned with rubies worth over A$70,000. The game is so valuable that it’s only ever been on display once in 2019. Limited to only three sets, each is hallmarked, numbered, and authenticated by Colin Burn himself.

Tiffany & Co. Chess Set

Price: A$220,000

Made from sterling silver, 24k gold vermeil and wood. This Tiffany & Co chess set is inspired by the corrugated profile of cardboard and reimagined into something beautiful — the hallmark of a creative aesthetic that is uniquely Tiffany. This statement-making item is housed in a sterling silver box lined in grey felt with a satin finish at the bottom, mirroring the design of the Tiffany Blue Box.

Louis Vuitton Chess Case

Price: A$24,000

Inspired from the classic Président attache case, this Chess case enables players to carry their games everywhere they go. The perfect piece to take on holidays somewhere in the sun, or have in the games room at home. Embossed with the traditional LV monogram, this chess set is a great addition to any collector home.

Alfio Chess Table

Price: Around A$15,200

This stunning Alfio Chess Table is crafted in dark horn and black lacquered wood and features a top in smoked tempered glass with a silver chessboard design. The splendid chessboard pieces are made from horn and palladium plated brass. A perfect addition to the games room.

Alfio Chess Table | Source: 1st Dibs

Dalian Chinese Chess Set

Price: A$10,135

This Hermes Chinese chess set is made from solid natural sycamore and mahogany with hand carved pawns inspired by the Samarcande chess set. Containing drawers with leather sheet and saddle-stitched handles in French taurillon H leather this chess set
is a perfect piece for a collector or a lover of the game.

Nelson Chess Set in Palladium-Plated Brass

Price: A$9,820

A modern interpretation of the iconic game of chess, this Nelson chess set will delight generations of players or collectors. Artisan crafted from Italian palladium-plated brass, the chess men maintain the classic black and white dualism, obtained only after a meticulous selection of Corno natural hues. The board in mirrored glass and wood with lacquered black gloss finish sets the playing surface while adding character to this design piece.

AERIEN Shagreen Chess Set

Price: A$7,000

This chess set by AERIN will up your style game. Beautifully presented in a shagreen box with brass detailing, this luxuriously crafted chess set features streamlined black and gold-plated pieces in this wonderfully contemporary update. A beautiful addition to have on display in any room of your home.

Skyline Chess Set

Price: Around A$5,500

Skyline Chess is the brainchild of two London-based architects who set out to remodel the game for players and design enthusiasts alike. Each of the 32 pieces in this set is made from heavy bronze using a combination of the traditional lost-casting process and 3D printing to ensure complete precision. They’re then gilded and felted on the base to hold each one in place. This Dubai edition perfectly captures the ‘City of Gold’ with the Rose Rotana as the rook and the Princess Tower playing the queen, while the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa – stands in for the king.

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