Chess has been one of the oldest games played in the civilized world. The nobility and upper classes of the society found the other popular games at that time like wrestling, animal fighting and other form of physical activities below their dignity to indulge in and this led to chess becoming popular in upper echelons of society far and wide.
As the game of chess got popular all over the world, the chess pieces also underwent a lot of changes in design and material. The chess sets were made in different designs and materials depending upon the social, economic and political situation of the region it was played in.
This led to different variants of chess design being used all over the world. In India and China where dexterous artisans and elephant ivory was available in abundance, the chess pieces were made in ivory. The kings, princes and nawabs took pride in getting made the chess pieces in ivory procured from the elephants hunted down by them.
In Europe and Middle East, wooden sets were made which was then decorated with fine carvings. In Africa, where ebony wood was easily available, chess sets were made in ebony wood. Industrialization in mid 19th century led to bulk production of wooden chess sets in United Kingdom which could be standardized unlike chess pieces carved by hand.
The advent of standard Staunton chess sets in middle of nineteenth century in UK led to the popular designs of chess sets slowly being replaced with Staunton pattern chess sets. The Staunton pattern chess sets became popular with players and soon all major tournaments and competitions were only played with this design of chess sets only. This practice of using Staunton Pattern Chess Sets at all major tournaments has continued since then and this design will keep dominating the chess equipment scene till some radically better design replaces this.