Some of the earliest paperweights were made in Venice in the 1840s. They were gathered together out of scraps of latticino and other types of cane, as well as chunks of aventurine quartz, which would be picked up by a ball of hot glass at the end of a pipe, covered with more clear glass, and then fashioned into a smooth cylinder. The glass was of poor quality and the collection of scrambled scraps within was a random jumble, at best.

Around the same time in Bohemia, the present-day Czech Republic, glassworkers were taking Venetian caning techniques to more inspired heights. Whereas the Venetian paperweights had used canes to create a sort of three-dimensional collage, the Bohemians used it to produce millefiori effects, in which the ends of canes were organized with their cross sections facing out so that viewers could discern patterns in the paperweight.

The Bohemians improved upon the techniques of the Venetians, and also incorporated the artistry of the French, who really brought the art of the paperweight into full flower. In fact, flowers were part of the reason why mid-19th-century French paperweights are so prized by collectors today: the flowers that seem suspended within these paperweights are like nothing else produced at the time.

Baccarat is unquestionably the most famous and renowned paperweight producer. They used two principle types of cane: millefiori, whose cross-sections revealed stars, spirals, and shamrocks, and silhouettes, which ranged from dogs to doves to devils. Baccarat codified the basic types of paperweights that glassworkers still aspire to today. The "plain" millefiori paperweights were produced in widely spaced or tight-and-close styles. Sometimes the canes were organized in concentric circles, other times their ends were interwoven like garlands.

Two other collectible Baccarat styles are mushrooms, in which a bundle of canes seem to spout like a mushroom from within the weight, and carpets, whose wall-to-wall patterns would do a Persian rug maker proud.

Three-dimensional lampworked flowers encased in glass were the chief French innovation. At Baccarat, flower choices included pansies, primroses, wheatflowers, clematis, buttercups, and, of course, roses. Fruits such as strawberries and pears were also frozen in glass, as were lizards, snakes, and other reptiles.

One of Baccarat’s toughest competitors was St. Louis, whose artisans could do pretty much everything Baccarat’s could. Plus, they had a Venetian-inspired innovation of their own:...

There were numerous other paperweight makers in 19th-century France, including the highly regarded Clichy, whose trademark cane rose appears in some 30 percent of all the paperweights produced by the company. The cross section of another popular Clichy cane resembles a pastry mold. Like its French counterparts, Clichy often inserted a cane into its paperweights whose cross section was the first letter of its name (for Clichy that would be "C," Baccarat used one with a "B," while St. Louis had a cane that spelled out two letters, "SL").

The French also excelled at sulphide or cameo paperweights. Baccarat produced odes to Joan of Arc and scenics such as a hunter accompanied by his trusty dog. St. Louis encased Napoleon III, while Clichy made sulphides bearing the likenesses of Benjamin Franklin and Marie Antoinette.

English glassmakers were not sitting still while all this innovation was taking place on the other side of the channel. A Birmingham company called Bacchus made paperweights using canes that resembled stars, ruffles, and cogs. Its concentric paperweights are especially well regarded, as are the pieces whose interiors appears to be blanketed with drifts of snow. The English made sulphides, too, often, not surprisingly, of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

In the United States, some of the new world’s first paperweights were made at the New England Glass Company in Cambridge, the forerunner of a company today known as Libbey. Its specialties were flower and fruit weights. Some of these fruit paperweights were blown to scale in the shape of apples or pears, then fused to a round or square clear base. Crosstown Boston rival Sandwich Glass Company differentiated its products by putting the flowers inside its paperweights in delicate, encased baskets.

Former New England Glass employee William Gillinder started his own firm in Philadelphia. His paperweights featured sulphide portraits of America’s founding fathers—one series of buildings in Philadelphia was created for the nation’s centennial in 1876. Millville, New Jersey was another center for paperweight making. The so-called "motto" weights ("Home Sweet Home," "Remember the Maine," "Hope") were popularized here, as were the flower and clipper paperweights, which featured a single blooming rose or delicate miniature ship entombed in crystal.

Other early American paperweights that are highly prized by contemporary collectors include those made at the Mt. Washington Glass Works, Pairpoint (which took over Mt. Washington in 1894), and the Union Glass Company of Somerville, Massachusetts.

In the early part of the 20th-century, Tiffany used the paperweight to anchor some of his vases, as well as to create more traditional paperweights that offered viewers glimpses of underwater scenes. Steuben relegated paperweight-making to a unpaid pursuit best left to enterprising workers during their lunch hour.

The 1920s saw a boom in paperweight technologies in the Czech Republic, where faceted, flower-filled paperweights were the rage. Baccarat revived its millefiori output shortly after World War II, and in 1953 created a sulphide paperweight to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. St. Louis also built upon its 19th-century paperweight traditions in the 1950s, particularly with its upright bouquets, which it produced throughout the 1960s.

In recent years, one of the most vibrant regions for vintage paperweights has been Scotland. According to collector Richard More, the Ysart family and the companies they spawned came to prominence shortly after World War II. Ysart’s patterned millefiori paperweights are at once traditional and fresh, with rich coloration and lush interiors. Whether it’s an Ysart Brothers piece from 1946 to 1955, a Vasart from 1956 to 1964, or a Strathearn from 1965 to 1980, these paperweights remind us why the form has captivated art-glass lovers for more than 150 years

Key terms for Antique and Vintage Art Glass Paperweights:

Cane: A glass rod made by stretching molten glass from both ends.

Lampworking: The practice of using an open flame, usually from a gas torch, to melt and form pieces of glass into a desired shape.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Morton D. Barker Paperweight Collection

Morton D. Barker Paperweight Collection

This Illinois State Museum microsite showcases over 200 of the finest examples of antique French paperweights of th… [read review or visit site]

Richard Mores Paperweight Photo Albums

Richard Mores Paperweight Photo Albums

Richard More’s stunning gallery of glass paperweights produced by the Ysart family from 1946 to 1980 (Ysart Brot… [read review or visit site]

Early Office Museum

Early Office Museum

This site showcases pre-1920 office antiques, including paperweights, writing ink, paper fasteners, seal pressers, … [read review or visit site]

This fabulous site is a guide to Bohemian art glass makers from 1885 to 1920. Loetz was the premier Bohemian glass … [read review or visit site]

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Cloud Glass Reference Site

Chris and Val Stewart’s impressive attempt to create a complete catalogue of all known cloud glass, a decorative … [read review or visit site]

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club

The heart of this website, home of the Antique Glass Salt and Sugar Shaker Club, is the Identification Project, whe… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Delicate 20" Closed-mouth Antique Bebe Doll W/blue Spiral Paperweight Eyes Look!Vintage Paul Ysart Aventurine Flower Glass Paperweight Signed / Presse PapiersContemporary Art Glass Millefiori Faceted Paperweight Perthshire 1997Contemporary Art Glass Millefiori Faceted Paperweight Perthshire 1972Stunning Isle Of White Studio Glass Wild Garden Paperweight - Timothy HarrisVintage Perthshire Thistle Centre 1974 P Cane Glass PaperweightContemporary Art Glass Millefiori Paperweight Perthshire Signature Cane1986 Josh Simpson Signed Controlled Bubble, Cabinet Vase / PaperweightPerthshire Le Pp19 1977 Millefiori Scramble Glass Paperweight / Presse PapiersVintage Perthshire ? Milifiori Glass PaperweightPerthshire Glass Paperweight Pp63 Le 1983 Briefbeschwerer Presse PapierVintage Ysart "h" Signature Cane Glass PaperweightVintage Strathearn Flower Glass PaperweightVintage Caithness Whitefriars Le Art Glass Lampworked Paperweight - "orchids"Contemporary Art Glass Millefiori Paperweight Perthshire Vintage Whitefriars 1975 Cane Milifiori Glass PaperweightLalique Art Deco Chrysis Nude Woman Glass Car Mascot Hood PaperweightRare Large Glass Paperweight Whitefriars Glass Briefbeschwerer Presse Papier1971 Baccarat French Art Glass Spaced Millefiori & Muslin PaperweightSigned Paul Stankard Purple Lilacs Floral Lampwork Art Glass PaperweightRare Early Josh Simpson Opalescent Nautiloid Art Glass Paperweight C. 1979Vintage Scottish Millifiori Glass PaperweightLarge Unusual John Deacons Glass Paperweight Briefbeschwerer Presse PapierContemporary Art Glass Millefiori Faceted Paperweight Perthshire ? 1973Contemporary Art Glass Millefiori Paperweight PerthshireVintage Perthshire Pp1 Millefiori Glass Paperweight + Label / Presse PapiersContemporary Art Glass Millefiori Faceted Paperweight Whitefriars19thc Art Glass Negc Scramble Millefiori Rabbit Picture Cane PaperweightOrient & Flume Bruce Sillars Waterlily Studio Art Glass Paperweight~ltd EdEarly Paul Ysart Millefiori With Lampwork Flower Glass PaperweightLarge Vintage Perthshire Strathearn Glass Paperweight Millefiori & 13 Spokes Pp1Vintage Strathearn Glass PaperweightLundberg Studios Art Glass Paperweight, Signed Daniel Salazar, Fish, 1990Contemporary Art Glass Millefiori Paperweight Perthshire 1972Vintage Perthshire ? Glass PaperweightCaithness Glass Millefiori Luckenbooth 1989 Paperweight / Presse PapiersStrathearn Flat Face Closepack Millefiori Glass Paperweight / Presse PapiersIsle Of Wight Studio Glass Pedestal Paperweight Signed By Michael HarrisContemporary Art Glass Millefiori Faceted Paperweight Perthshire 1977Low Limited Edition Caithness Millennium Dahlia Glass Paperweight - Signed.Rare Glass Pansy Paperweight J Glass 1979 Briefbeschwerer Presse PapierVintage Perthshire Glass Millifori Paperweight Scent BottleVtg 1975 Whitefriars Concentric Closepack Millefiori Faceted Paperweight 3" X 2"Contemporary Art Glass Millefiori Paperweight Perthshire Vintage Perthshire Glass Millifori Paperweight Scent BottleLimited Edition Caithness Opus 88 Glass Paperweight Vintage Perthshire Large Ltd. Edn.1986 "bouquet" Paperweight Top & Side Facets1977 Blue Iriscene Hearts And Vines Orient & Flume PaperweightSigned Lalique Anemone Flower PaperweightVtg 1977 Whitefriars Concentric Closepack Millefiori Faceted Paperweight 3" X 2"Fenton Glass Black Paperweight Heart Tabby Kitten Cat Lace - Ooak By Cc HardmanVintage Perthshire ? Millifiori Glass Paperweight21 Antique & Vintage Glass Paperweight ButtonsVintage Scottish Millifiori Glass PaperweightBell System Telephone Name Blue Phone Advertising Sign Logo Glass Paperweight GtVintage Murano Millefiori Glass PaperweightVintage Perthshire ? Glass PaperweightSaint Louis Glass Paperweight Multi-colored Flowers 1975Josh Simpson New Mexico Art Glass Paperweight VaseEarly Chinese Faceted Posy Millefiori Garland Latticino Art Glass Paperweight

Recent News: Art Glass Paperweights

Source: Google News

Ashes to glass: A different way to remember loved ones
Lawrence Journal World, January 25th

For the past several years the couple has operated, a small art business incorporating the cremated ashes of lost friends, family members and beloved pets into glass art. Vaughn Evans began creating glass beads and marbles when ...Read more

Art gallery listings for Jan. 25
Chico Enterprise-Record, January 24th

SATAVA ART GLASS: 819 Wall St. 345-7985, Open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Producers of an array of hand-blown and solid forms in glass, specializing in paperweights, vases, bowls and jellyfish sculptures. STANSBURY HOME: ...Read more

Wooden penguins
Observer-Reporter, January 24th

Carvings of birds, especially ducks and other wild species, are collected by those who consider the best examples to be art, while other examples are to be used as decoys when hunting. While both types of decoys can be found at antiques auctions and ...Read more

Movies spark renewed interest in carver's penguins
HeraldNet, January 24th

Carvings of birds, especially ducks and other wild species, are collected by those who consider the best examples to be art, while other examples are to be used as decoys when hunting. While both types of decoys can be found at antiques auctions and ...Read more

Art gallery listing for Jan. 11
Chico Enterprise-Record, January 9th

Featuring art glass, photography and other unique local art pieces, as well as antiques and fine furniture. Contributing artists ... Producers of an array of hand-blown and solid forms in glass, specializing in paperweights, vases, bowls and jellyfish...Read more

10 Fun (and Affordable) Ways to Spruce Up Your Home Office
Business News Daily, January 7th

Anything from fun new office supplies to cool wall art can do the trick. These 10 products are fun, ... These simple but gorgeous vintage-inspired pressed glass photo frames are great for displaying your favorite photos and prints. Frames come in three...Read more

Library staffers show their creative sides
Jackson Hole News&Guide, January 7th

spells and evil sorcerers. Their minds conjure images of whodunit novels' mysterious settings. Embracing their tendency to daydream, Teton County Library employees not only use their imaginations to play out a book's chapters, they use them to...Read more

Hummels to helicopters, 18 smaller Chicago-area museums for 2015
Chicago Tribune, December 31st

Arthur Rubloff Collection of Paperweights: Another stretch, this time in calling this entry a small museum. Some 800 classic paperweights, mostly decorative glass from the 19th century, are displayed within the Art Institute of Chicago. At 111 S...Read more