At that level, when you see a carbon coating, it's to enhance the look of the pipe. If you look at close-ups of a Tokutomi, for instance, it looks like he does the coating with a laser or something - it's so ridiculously perfect it just makes me sick.
Now THAT is beautiful! You're damned right, I'd smoke it. That's what it was made for, after all. It really bugs me to see a pipe sitting on a shelf or in a fancy cabinet....unsmoked and unfulfilled. If I found out one of you bought a pipe of mine and *didn't* smoke it, I'd be pissed. They're PIPES people!
I wouldn't worry too much about the grain...the briar I've played with is pretty tough. Not saying it *won't* snap, just that it's stronger than it looks. The grain on briar is pretty tight...and hard.
Now as for price, that's something that will always be beyond my means...maybe Sas will gift it to me?