GBD as a company was established in Paris in 1850 by three men (Ganneval, Bondier & Donninger), dedicated to make Meerschaum pipes. Ganneval probably came from the area of Saint-Claude where he had learned making wooden pipes. Bondier was from Paris but emigrated
to Geneva in 1789. Donninger was an Austrian or Swiss who worked in Vienna, the world’s center of the Meerschaum pipe at the time. They agreed on the acronym GBD. During the 1900’s, GBD pipes were produced in both the UK and France. Some dating info on the France GBD’s are the words “Xtra” and “Speciale” markings.
GBD produced consistently well made pipes, almost entirely of Algerian or Grecian briar. In the late 1960’s to late 1970’s, they introduced the “Collector” and “Unique” lines, made primarily by Horry Jamieson, who had carved for Barling for many years, and was skilled in freehand design.
Through the 1960’s and 1970’s some pipes were fitted with moulded stems. Before the amalgamation of GBD and Comoy (late 1980’s), the GBD rondelle was a silver or brass insert (see the top GBD) in the stem. After GBD and Comoy amalgamated, the GBD rondelle became a painted or black logo and the linear “London England” stamp became the round “Made in London England” stamp.
Known lines in the 1970’s were
- Virgin: Best grained briar
- Century: golden finish, celebrates over a 100 years of manufacturing
- New era: Also fine quality briar with a double finish
- Prestige: Similar to virgin quality briar but with perspex stems which will not colourise due to oxidation.
- Other lines like Pedigree I, II, III, Prodigy, Prestige, Jubilee, Universe, Tapestry will also be found under the GBD name pre Comoy.
I have four (two of them I passed on to my son) GBD’s;
- “Oom Paul” with a brass rondelle logo, circa 1970’s. I bought it new from a Tobacconist circa 1981. Very nice clencher and all-round a good smoker.
- a Bull Dog, also pre amalgamation but after the brass insert as the “London Made” is not yet replaced. Other markings are RJ X, shape number 687 – Rhodesian / poker. I bought it new from a Tobacconist circa 1983. Doesn’t smoke exceptional, but like all GBD’s, a good smoker.
- one straight flame grain Century, Canadian shape I got from my father, dated circa 1973. He bought it new from a Tobacconist circa 1980. Good smoker but I prefer bent pipes.
- One post amalgamation with the marking of “popular”. I bought it new from a Tobacconist circa 1988. Not a good smoker and confirms the general opinion that post amalgamation with Comoy GBD’s are not as good as the “true” GBD’s.
- In April 2014 I acquired another estate GBD Tapestry from a forum member who advertised a GBD lot on a forum. The marking show GBD Tapestry II 1987 which means its a pipe made probably after the amalgamation with Comoy. It looks like this stem was replaced because all Tapestry stems I could see, had a distinct shape. Tapestry is somewhat in the lower quality range of pipes since the late 1970’2.
Older GBD pieces are excellent smokers and unique in design. Pipe smokers are of the opinion – you might not get the highest quality of briar, but you can never go wrong with a pre amalgamation GBD.