When the Cristiano family came to America from Calabria, Italy, in 1968, they brought with them a wonderful and unique talent: pipe making. As the maestros of this craft, for nearly two decades the Cristiano family shaped and honed the rare, beautiful – but tough briar-root into some of the world’s most valued and treasured pipes. They have practiced their art at Calabresi Smoking Pipes, Inc. creating handsome wooden pipes for the largest pipe companies, as well as custom designing pipes for individual special requests.
In the age of 17, Thomas Cristiano (born in 1951 in Italy) was working in the pipe industry. “I was a floor boy for S.M. Frank & Company,” says Cristiano. “I counted and graded blocks of wood, categorized them, counted and selected pipes and put them in stock.” He has come a long way since then, but every step of that journey has been dedicated to pipes. (In fact it’s a great reference! S.M. Frank & Company was actually one of the headliners of the briar industry in USA. You definitely may know their brands such as Kaywoodie, Yello-Bole, Reiss-Premier, William Demuth Company (WDC), Medico, Heritage, Frank etc).
Thomas launched his own company, Cristom Imports and Exports, in 1982 in Tampa, Florida. The Cristiano’s briarwood pipes are magnificently crafted by both hand and machine from the root of the wild briar shrub, which grows only in the Mediterranean region. Shrub harvesters cut the root into chunks that are later selected by pipe makers based on the grain and quality of the wood. Some higher grade pipes were made in Italy by Barontini and L’Anatra.
Thomas Cristiano’s pipes are separated in to two main marks: Calabresi and T. Cristiano. The lines expand the horizon from filter pipes to exquisite freehands and classic shapes with ornate details made from precious metals such as gold and sterling silver.
In the Calabresi line there are the Budget line, the Algerian Imports, Italian Imports, Spindrift, Danesi Series, Massicia, Metamorfosi, Raffaele, Free Forms, Cesare Series, and Fancy.
The T. Cristiano line begins with the T. Cristiano, then the VSQ Series (it should mean Very Special Quality, we guess), Metamorfosi , Bosso, Phidias and finally the highly sought after T. Cristiano Signature Series.
Additionally T. Cristiano had a letter grading system: from F to A in ascending order.
From the middle of the 1980s till 1992 Criastiano made a lot of pipes for Kaywoodie and other companies. Also Thomas was one of the most respected humidor makers.
As it’s poetically written in Pipedia “Sadly, Mr. Cristiano became a broken pipe on November 7, 2005 while traveling in his native Italy. He was only 53 years old. He is universally remembered as a kind person, as well as a positive influence on the pipe and cigar industries”.
4. Jose Manuel Lopes. Pipes. Artisans and trademarks.