Top 10 Most Expensive Chess Sets of All Time


Top-10-Most-Expensive-Chess-Sets

For centuries, the game of chess has enamored people globally. Out of all strategy-based games, chess is perhaps the most widely loved and popular. Along with the game’s engaging nature, chess sets have a unique beauty that makes them widely coveted.

The Pearl Royale Chess Set is the world’s most expensive chess set with a value of $4 million. Only three sets were created by the Australian artist Colin Burn. Crafted in solid 18k white gold and pave set with 513 carats of GIA-certified diamonds.

Whether you want to invest in the best chess sets out there or admire the beautiful art of chess sets, this article will cover the top 10 most expensive chess sets in the world and explain why they are so expensive.

Here are the Top 10 Most Expensive Chess Sets in the World:

  1. Pearl Royale Chess Set – $4 million
  2. The Battle of Issus Chess Set – $1.9 million
  3. Pagoda Figurines Chess Set – $696,260
  4. The Christian I von Münch Chess Set – $552,570
  5. Marcel Duchamp Pocket Chess Set – $423,000
  6. The German Carved Ivory Animalier Chess Set – $298,800
  7. White and Yellow Gold Tempered Glass Chess Set – $285,000
  8. Mother-of-Pearl and Tortoiseshell Chess Set – $214,500
  9. Man Ray’s Chess Set – $201,600
  10. The Gem Set Gold Chess Set – $187,500

10. The Gem Set Gold Chess Set – $187,500

The-Gem-Set-Gold-Chess-Set
photo source: Christie’s

This set likely originated in South India somewhere around 1775-1825. The Gem Set Gold Chess Set has pieces representing opposing chess teams with breathtaking rubies and emeralds carefully placed on each piece.

Additionally, the set also has a unique, undeciphered script on the base of its pieces. The position of the gems and the inscription indicate its South Indian origins, with the script written in a language reminiscent of Telugu.

Why It’s Expensive

At a realized price of $187,500, The Gem Set Gold Chess Set is one of the most expensive in the world. Aside from its rich history and the indecipherable inscription that has fascinated historians, this set is expensive because of the value of the materials in each piece.

The Gem Set Gold Chess Set contains thirty-two pieces, all set with stunning rubies and emeralds, one type of jewel for each team of pieces. The base of all the pieces in this set is plain gold, marked by an undeciphered script. One look at this chess set will tell you right away why the set is so valuable.

9. Man Ray’s Chess Set – $201,600

Man-Ray’s-Chess-Set
photo source: Sotheby’s

From the notorious visual artist Man Ray, this chess set is stunning for its sleek appearance, wood mounting, and storage drawers to protect chess pieces when not in use.

Today, you might find reproductions of Man Ray’s sets at a lower price. However, this set is an essential piece of history because experts have confirmed its authenticity. Chess lovers can play a classic game with Man Ray’s Chess Set while admiring this set’s beautiful artwork and history.

Why It’s Expensive

One of the reasons why Man Ray’s Chess Set is worth a whopping $201,600 is because of its history and authenticity. Man Ray’s artwork has a long and intricate history, and a rare find like this one is well worth its valuation. The set is also in stunning condition, with thirty-two sleek, polished bronze chess pieces, an enamel, and a brass inlay board mounted in gorgeous wood.

With its unique storage drawers and stunning red checkered pattern, Man Ray’s Chess Set earns adoration from chess experts and fanatics. Topping it off is an inscription of Man Ray’s name, cementing this piece as a precious work of art.

8. Mother-of-Pearl and Tortoiseshell Chess Set – $214,500

Mother-of-Pearl-and-Tortoiseshell-Chess-Set
photo source: Christie’s

The Mother-of-Pearl and Tortoiseshell Chess Set is notable for its beautiful, vintage design. This set includes silver and silver-gilt mounted polychrome boxwood meticulously carved in a unique, fascinating shape. The Mother-of-Pearl and Tortoiseshell Chess Set is also stamped with the mark of Ausburg silversmith Christian Baur circa 1735, adding to its historical value. All the pieces are kept safe with a stunning tortoiseshell ebonized and veneered case, and the lid includes breathtakingly engraved mother-of-pearl squares that complete its unique design.

Why It’s Expensive

The Mother-of-Pearl and Tortoiseshell Chess Set is expensive for its careful craft and connection to Christian Baur. However, there are additional features that make this chess set increasingly valuable. The pieces in this set are steeped with either silver bases and green stained ivory platforms or steeped silver-gilt bases and mother-of-pearl platforms.

The variety in this set makes it stand out as a unique relic of the past. Along with the expensive materials in the lid of this set, the board is inlaid with rare, expensive materials such as incised mother-of-pearl and thinly veneered tortoiseshell.

7. White and Yellow Gold Tempered Glass Chess Set – $285,000

White-and-Yellow-Gold-Tempered-Glass-Chess-Set
photo source: 1stDIBS

One notable modern chess set is the White and Yellow Gold Tempered Glass Chess Set manufactured in 2015. A single glance at this breathtaking set leaves no doubt about its value. The set is hand-crafted, making it a truly one-of-a-kind purchase. Additionally, every piece of the White and Yellow Gold Tempered Glass Chess Set is full of intricate details that you’ll struggle to find in many other sets.

Perhaps most unique is the set’s spin on the traditional pawn, rook, knight, bishop, queen, and king characters. Instead of looking like you might imagine in a traditional chess set, the characters are trolls, dwarfs, centaurs, warriors, elven fairies, and out-of-this-world kings.

Why It’s Expensive

Besides its fascinating take on chess characters, the White and Yellow Gold Tempered Glass Chess Set earns its hefty $285,000 price tag because of the expensive materials found in each piece. The gold in this set is more than you will find in most, with 62.2 grams of gold shaping the corners of the board, 155.5 grams in the legs of the board, and a total of 1363.63 grams of yellow and white gold in the figurine pieces.

6. The German Carved Ivory Animalier Chess Set – $298,000

The-German-Carved-Ivory-Animalier-Chess-Set
photo source: Christie’s

Crafted circa 1870, the German Carved Ivory Animalier Chess Set is notable among chess fanatics because of its characters: a team of owls versus a team of mice.

This set is eye-catching because of its animal figurines, something relatively unseen in chess sets throughout history. The owls in this set are partially stained with a stunning deep brown shade. Additionally, the figurines in this set include kings and queens donning intricate crowns and robes, bishops with miters and croziers, knights with plumed helmets, shields, and swords, rooks perched on turrets, and pawns modeled as individual warriors. Some pawns in this set have glass eyes to appear as wounded warriors.

Why It’s Expensive

The German Carved Ivory Animalier Chess Set is expensive for its age, condition, and unique design and for the materials put into it. The figurines in this set stand on an integral square section with molded bases, and each fits into the chess box with a subtle brass pin.

Furthermore, part of what makes this set expensive is its coromandel veneering and satinwood casket with a gorgeous brass lock plate. The manufacturer that created this set likely did so on commission for a particular artisan, making it a unique piece that companies cannot reproduce.

5. Marcel Duchamp Pocket Chess Set – $423,000

Marcel-Duchamp-Pocket-Chess-Set
photo source: Sotheby’s

Created by Marcel Duchamp, this chess set is incredibly unique for its sensible design that, as the name implies, can fit into your pocket or bag and carry with you anywhere. On-the-go chess lovers will find their perfect match in Duchamp’s set.

A chess fanatic, Duchamp used chess as a motif in much of his surrealist artwork in the early-mid 1900s. The set itself holds pieces in place with tiny, carefully placed pockets carved into a leather board. Duchamp used small pins to keep the pieces secure as he traveled with his chess set.

Why It’s Expensive

Marcel Duchamp is a notable figure in the chess community, and his combination of chess and art gives his pieces a rare beauty that’s hard to find elsewhere. The set is signed and dated by Duchamp, bumping up its value.

Duchamp’s pocket set showed the versatility of the game, and Duchamp’s work has long inspired experts. Duchamp’s sensible approach to the game changed how people understood the value of chess.

4. The Christian I von Münch Chess Set – $552,570

The-Christian-I-von-Münch-Chess-Set
photo source: Christie’s

Often, older chess sets are not only stunning for their history but for how they’ve held up over time and the unique materials that are less common in modern sets.

This uniqueness is true for The Christian I von Münch Chess Set, circa 1705-1709. The top of this chess set contains alternating squares of ivory and tortoiseshell inlaid with stunning silver stars and scrolls. The sides of the board include tortoiseshell veneer and silver foil trim. The board includes two drawers to protect each chess piece, all stunning in their own right, with designs of warriors fighting on elephants and horsebacks.

Why It’s Expensive

This set is worth its value for numerous reasons. The chess pieces have unique characteristics of ivory on ebony and silver-gilt bases from ebonized walnut. One of the bishops in this set holds a piece of paper with the sculptor’s initials engraved. However, no one has conclusively identified the sculptor, adding to the intrigue and value of this set.

3. Pagoda Figurines Chess Set – $696,260

Pagoda-Figurines-Chess-Set
photo source: Sotheby’s

Many chess sets are revered for their elegance, and the Pagoda Figurines Chess Set is the perfect example of this elegance. This board has a rich history dating back to 1720-30 and contains precious, high-quality materials. The board’s history reflects its period and the general enthusiasm for the game. The figurines are reminiscent of European mythological figures, paying homage to the game’s Oriental origins.

Why It’s Expensive

Its unique history aside, the Pagoda Figurines Chess Set is expensive for its numerous high-end materials. The board and figurines contain materials like horn, ivory, tortoiseshell, gilt, silver gilt, porcelain, pearl, padouk, and ebony.

The chessboard contains silver and silver-gilt mounted pewter, brass, copper, mother of pearl, and stained ivory inlaid boulle marquetry. The set has panels of chinoiseries, exotic animals, and classic mythological creatures. On top of that, this set has a velvet-lined drawer and porcelain Pagoda figurines for the kings and queens. The black figurines contain aventurine glass with silver-gilt mounts and tortoiseshell bases, while the bishops have blackamoor busts in jet colors. The white pair of figurines have silver crowns containing simulated and seed pearls.

2. The Battle of Issus Chess Set – $1.9 million

The-Battle-of-Issus-Chess-Set
photo source: M.S. Rau Antiques

The runner-up for the most expensive chess sets of all time is the Battle of Issus Chess Set, which took ten years to create and a massive 14,000 hours of crafting. Based on the ancient Battle of Issus from 333 BC, this set is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Mini sculptures of archers, horse riders, chariots, and elephants surround the board, with historical figures like Alexander the Great and King Darius representing the opposite teams. This chess set has classic mythological roots, as the Greek goddess Athena and the Persian god of war are the queens.

Each piece has mechanical capabilities, meaning that the owner can see this battle come to life in a mesmerizing dance. Among these movements are horses shaking their manes, King Alexander moving his sword, oars rowing as though floating in the water, and archers drawing their bows back before striking. There’s nothing quite like this set, and it’s unlikely that the world will see a set like this in the future.

Why It’s Expensive

The uniqueness of this set and its movement capabilities are only part of why the Battle of Issus Chess Set is a whopping $1.9 million. The set contains 14-karat gold pieces, all adorned with semi-precious stones and stunning enamel. The board is composed of pink rhodonite and green malachite squares, with sides made of pure silver.

The set has an additional 320 grams of stunning garnets and accents of pearls, turquoise, rose quartz, and flawless enamel, making the set seem sparkling. All in all, the Battle of Issus Chess Set earns its high price solely for how innovative and unique it is–there’s nothing else like it.

1. The Pearl Royale Chess Set – $4 Million

The-Pearl-Royale-Chess-Set
photo source: Colin Burn

The most expensive chess set in the world is the Pearl Royale Chess Set with a total cost of $4 million.

Made of a stunning combination of white diamonds, South Sea pearls, sapphires, and solid white gold, the Pearl Royale Chess Set is perhaps one of the most beautiful that the world has ever seen. With only three of these sets, the Pearl Royale is sought after and desirable to any chess fan. The characters on this board shine and sparkle because of the careful work by artist Colin Burn.

This chess set includes handcrafted, stunning details that make it hard to tear your eyes away. Burn crafted this set to show the pure value, elegance, and power of chess as a game. Each figurine has an intricately designed underside fitted with awe-inspiring diamonds and gold edges that help the pieces glide smoothly across the crystal board, including gold and diamond adornments. The beautiful Staunton-style design conjures memories of the royal designs of chess sets throughout history.

Why It’s Expensive

The Pearl Royale is far more expensive than the other sets on this list, and for a good reason. With only three editions, the set has incredible value. Additionally, the materials in this set are expensive and top-tier for chess lovers. The set includes 18k gold adorned with 513 carats of GIA-certified diamonds. AAA Ceylon blue sapphires and gorgeous South Sea pearls adorn this set. The gorgeous diamonds and polished gold edges of the pieces are enough to make the set sparkle with beauty. The crystal board includes pure gold and diamond adornments, giving the set an elegance rarely found in other chess collections.

With all these features, it’s no wonder that the Pearl Royale Chess Set is the most luxurious set ever created. Anyone hoping to invest significantly in their favorite game won’t find anything more luxurious and regal than the Pearl Royale Chess Set.

Eric Lyons

Eric is a subject-matter expert on the world's most expensive luxuries and collectibles. He has explored thousands of luxuries and collectibles over the past few years and now brings them to readers around the world.

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