Lot #621. Jaques Inlaid Leather Chessboard
Jaques Inlaid Leather Chessboard.
A high quality Inlaid Leather Chessboard made for Dunhill by Geoffrey Parker to accompany the leather book- cased Jaques Fischer-Spassky style chessmen. This thick, brown Inlaid Leather Chessboard measures 17″ with 2-0″ squares. It was manufactured around 1970 and displays typical fine British craftsmanship. Alfred Dunhill was an English tobacconist and inventor. He is the progenitor of the very prestigious Dunhill luxury goods company and the Dunhill branded tobacco products from British American Tobacco.London. Alfred Dunhill has built its reputation on uncompromising standards in menswear.
The Geoffrey Parker story starts in 1958 when he started to produce a range of leather-bound books, from classics to stationary – most of them pocket size. From “Beefeaters” to Ocean liner’s “flags”, the books were lovingly hand painted and sold to tourist gift shops, museums, great cruise companies such as P & O and Cunard, to exclusive boutiques and designer labels. One such contact was Alfred Dunhill, who’s grandson, Richard Dunhill, approached Geoffrey and asked him to make an inlaid leather chessboard. Geoffrey soon discovered that the ancient skill of inlaying leather was a particular craft which came easily to him and his growing team of craftsmen. As often happens to a small specialty company, a request by a well recognized company starts the company of the road to success. That fortuitous association with Dunhill started led the Geoffrey Parker Company on the journey that led to their preeminent position as the world’s leading maker of high end inlaid leather games and leisure goods.
After that inaugural inlaid leather chessboard success, the company sought out to team with the best in the business. Their first successful encounter was with the firm of John Jaques of London, who have been inseparable from the famous Staunton Chessmen since being chosen to manufacture that now famous design which went on to become de-rigueur for all World Championship play from 1849 onwards and still holds that vaulted position today.
By the early Seventies the Company had already established itself as No.1 in The World for luxury board games. This ultimately led to Geoffrey’s being commissioned to make the leather boxes and chess boards for the World famous 1972 championship Match between the then World Champion, Boris Spassky from the Soviet Union, and the flamboyant American Robert James “Bobby” Fischer, held in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Meanwhile, for Backgammon, the Company’s expertise was requested for what is widely recognized as the first World Backgammon Championship sponsored by Rothman and taking place the fabulous QEII, which sailed for a week between Southampton and New York with the world’s best players in fierce contest. During this time, the Backgammon “boom” generated a demand for “Geoffrey Parker” boards by the hundreds and his group of artisans expanded to a team of 25, each trained “in house” to Geoffrey’s exacting standards. To ensure he stayed on top, Geoffrey sought out the advice of the World’s most formidable Backgammon champion, Paul Magriel, to ensure that his boards matched professional requirements. Geoffrey’s famous weighted leather Backgammon stone emerged as a direct result of this business association.
In 1977, Geoffrey’s son Max joined the Company and sought to extend the company’s reach to the Americas. Visits to the States resulted in their games and books now featured in famous department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman. A stunning center piece to Neiman Marcus’ premier Dallas store was Geoffrey’s Design Council award winning solid Sterling silver-gilt chess set, made for the HM The Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Almost every luxury retailer of note commissioned The Goffrey Parker Company to create specialty game ranges, including Asprey, Dunhill, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Garrard, Simpson’s, Smythson, Cartier and Fred. A “blind” backgammon set was even created for famous American singer, Stevie Wonder.
Trips to the Far East, taking in Hong Kong and Singapore, followed, where Geoffrey Parker’s work was employed for such hotel luminaries as the Mandarin Hong Kong, the Intercontinental group, and famous clubs, including the Singapore Polo Club and The Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club. In the US the Willard Hotel in Washington DC and Le Grenouille restaurant in New York added to this side of the Company activities as did such well-known names in London’s Mayfair of The Connaught, Grosvenor House Hotel and The White Elephant Club.
Towards the end of the Eighties, a concerted effort was made to expand into the corporate sector – commercial giants such as BP, Motorola, Condé Nast and many others commissioned the Company to make specialist items for chairman to chairman gift-giving and or for company incentives. Ranges were also created for famous car marques such as Aston Martin Lagonda and Jaguarmotors. It was during this time that Max opened a Geoffrey Parker store within the world-famous “Golden Triangle” of luxury shopping in Beverly Hills. Many new items were subsequently introduced, none less important than the introduction of their first licensed game, Scrabble®. London’s famous gaming houses also sought their “soft gaming” requirements from Geoffrey Parker as well as their VIP/high roller gift giving needs. These great casino clubs included the world’s oldest gaming club Crockfords plus The Ritz, Aspinalls, Les Ambassadeurs and many others.
Their bespoke service was gainfully employed on a number of important projects from a facsimile of George Washington’s campaign briefcase for the venerable Smithsonian Institute in DC, a casket for the regalia of an ancient London Livery Company, The Royal Vintners Company, to replace the previous one which lasted 350 years, to two giant library tables covered in 8 full cow hides for the Royal Academy to a special photograph album for Her Majesty The Queen of England.