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    

Vintage Perthshire Pp101 Art Glass Paperweight Complex Patterned MillefioriAntique Clichy Patterned Millefiori PaperweightBeautiful Haford Grange Dandelion Clear Resin Paperweight Ornament - 98 S36Vintage Perthshire Glass Millifiori Facet Cut Paperweight - Lovely! Vintage St. Louis Art Glass Paperweight, 1972, 19 Different Spaced MillefioriHuge 6lbs James Nowak Art Glass Paperweight Dichroic Millefiori Trophy SculptureOkra Glass Studios - Art Glass Paperweight - Richard P Golding - Ltd Edition!Okra Glass Studio's - Panorama - Iridescent Art Glass Paperweight - Unusual! Vintage Perthshire Glass Millifiori Wheel Paperweight - Lovely! Isle Of Wight Studio Glass - Iridescent Blue Gold Leaf Scent Bottle PaperweightMillefiori Paperweight, Close Packed Complex Pattern Caithness Spiral Cane & Millifiori Glass Paperweight - Revival - Ltd Edition!Vintage High Quality Flower Bouquet In Window Glass PaperweightStunning Vintage Perthshire Purple Flower Paperweight John Deacons Millefiori Glass Paperweight 2-3/8" Complex Canes Cranberry ThistleJosh Simpson Beautiful Glass PaperweightOkra Glass Studios Glass Paperweight Art Object - R P Golding - Ltd Edition!Perthshire Hollow "polar Bear" Paperweight 1985g (limited Edition)Signed Vandermark Studio Hand Blown Art Glass Swirl Pulled Feather Paperweight Caithness Snowy Owl Studio Glass Paperweight - Nm 5 Of A Limited Edition!Fine Orient & Flume Greg Hild Floral Paperweight Vase With CertificatePerthshire 1970s Pp14 Patterned Millefiori Paperweight Okra Glass Studio's - Combed Art Glass Paperweight - Unusual! Vintage Perthshire Art Glass Paperweight Concentric Millefiori Fluted Pp75Rare Vintage Lalique Frosted Crystal Wart Hog Pig Boar PaperweightVintage Lot Of 5 Murano Italy Glass Paperweights Bubble Flower Millefiori & BirdVintage Egyptian Scarab Beetle Iridescent Art Glass Paperweight Figurine 5"x2"Langham Glass Kingfisher PaperweightVtg Murano Italian Art Glass Latticino Twisted Ribbon Millefiori Paperweight Perthshire Crieff Scotland Glass Paperweight Spectacular Colors Perthshire Paperweight 1976 Blenko Handcraft Red/yellow Mushroom Art Glass Paperweight W/foil TagGlass Iridescent Egg Formed Paperweight-swirl On Top-light Blue/purple1977 Anthony De Palma Yellow Rose Pedestal Paperweight Millvuille Vintage GlassVtg Antique Faceted Glass Concentric Millefiori Cane Roses Flower Paperweight Art Nouveau Iridescent King Tut American Studio Glass PaperweightRobert Held Iridescent Heart Art Glass Amethyst Paperweight - Signed And LabelJulie Scrutton Lewis Parabelle Art Glass Paperweight Millefiori Artist ProofMurano Art Glass Fish Tank Aquarium Paperweight Sculpture Decoration W/ ScratchVintage Steven Correia Art Glass Paperweight Modern Faceted Dichroic DesignAntique1893 Chicago World's Fair Souvenir-ferris Wheel Paperweight-heavy GlassDavid Tolley - Isle Of Wight Studio Glass - Dome Formed Paperweight - Lovely! Vintage John Deacons Glass Millifiori Paperweight - Lovely! Antique New England Glass Co Negc Paperweight Millefiori Jasper ScrambleOkra Glass Studios Glass Paperweight Art Object - Black Tower - Ltd Edition!Paperweights Contemporary Art Glass James Alloway 3.22inch New Design #630Beautiful Glass Eye Studio 1991 Paperweight - Fabulous Colors!!1974 Whitefriars London Multi Faceted Paperweight W/ Blue Pink & White Canes Correia Iridescent Saturn Art Glass Paperweight Signed Dated Green PurpleVintage Studio Ahus Art Glass Paperweight Modern Facet Bubble Design SculptureAntique Vintage 19th Century Laticino Cane Scatter Glass PaperweightCorreia Ltd Ed Etched Paperweight ~ Matte Midnight Blue & Irridescent Steel BlueGlass Eye Studio Halley's Comet Paperweight In Blue Velvet BoxVtg Cristal D’albret France Sulphide Cameo Lg Paperweight Apollo 11 AstronautsRobert Held Iridescent Heart Art Glass Monet Style Paperweight - Signed & LabelPaperweights Contemporary Art Glass James Alloway 3.4inch New Design #628Glass Eye Studio Uranus Paperweight Perthshire X Large Early Faceted 1960's "cartwheel Millefiori" PaperweightGlass Iridescent Egg Formed Paperweight-swirl On TopOrient And Flume Paperweight Studio Glass Paperweight Signed

Recent News: Art Glass Paperweights

Source: Google News

Wood often neglected medium in art
Tyler Morning Telegraph, September 1st

Glass, pottery, bronze, silver and of course, paper and canvas, are all used to make important, and often expensive, works of art. But wood has .... n Trench art, paperweight, artillery shell, mounted on stepped base, patinated relief spelter, c. 1918...Read more

Art Gallery Listings Aug. 30, 2015
Chico Enterprise-Record, August 29th

For more information e-mail or call 899-8401. Arc Of Butte County 3rd Street Gallery: 163 E. Third St. 892-2447. Open 10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Featuring art glass, photography and other unique local art pieces, ...Read more

Set in stone: A stone-carving class in the mountains of Vermont provides ...
Miami Herald, August 28th

Our instructor, Rick Rothrock (yes, he gets asked a lot, that's his real name), is a professional sculptor based outside Philadelphia, and he's been teaching and creating art at the Carving Studio for several years. Assisting him were a ... If I came...Read more

Art Gallery Listings Aug. 23, 2015
Chico Enterprise-Record, August 22nd

All Fired Up! Gallery and Ceramic Art Center: 830 Broadway. 894-5227. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, Noon-4 p.m. Sunday. Combination art gallery, fully equipped working ceramic studio and ceramic supply outlet...Read more

Amador artists plan a booming Fourth
Calaveras Enterprise, August 19th

Chaos Glassworks, Sutter Creek – The art glass gallery and hot shop just north of downtown is owned by David and Heather Hopman. They craft a wide variety of art glass items like vases, bowls, pumpkins, lighting, sculpture, beads, paperweights, jewelry ...Read more

What's in the attic? Paper weights
Greensburg Daily News, August 13th

At first it was only a heavy glass object thrown on top of a pile of bills. But by the middle of the 19th century French artists transformed the practical paperweight into a work of art. Inspired by the artistic traditions of the ancient Romans, the...Read more

Larkfield Glass Midnight Madness Open House
Journal Gazette and Times-Courier, August 10th

We've got some sweet little glass hearts, Christmas/window ornaments, vases, bowls, and paperweights in a wide variety of colors and styles, as well as many one-of-a-kind functional and art pieces - entirely handcrafted, and all signed and dated as ...Read more

Art show fills former runways in Glenview
Chicago Tribune, August 9th

James Downey, a glass artist from downstate Monticello, exhibited his work close to the road where he spent his childhood. "I literally grew up about three blocks away on Prairie Lawn. It's a strange homecoming," Downey said. His former house still...Read more