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    

Antique 19th.c French Clichy Close-packed Millefiori Paperweight C.1850Antique Glass PaperweightJames Alloway Signed Fancy Art Glass Dichroic Paperweight!!! Beautiful!!!1971 Baccarat French Art Glass Lampwork Purple Dahlia Paperweight W/boxVintage Murano Italy Millifiori Cased Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmSigned Robert Eickholt 1989 Hand Blown Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmPerthshire 1972c Mini Lampwork Flower Basket Art Glass Studio PaperweightPerthshire End Of Day Millefiori Paperweight With 5 Silhouette Canes, Dated 1993Vtg Murano Italy Abstract Swirl Hand Blown Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmAntique Baccarat Mini Concentric Millefiori Glass Paperweight / Presse PapiersOrient & Flume, Paperweight, Hummingbird By E. Seaira, 1986, 5/150Vtg Murano Italy Millefiori Studio Cased Floral Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmLarge 3" Josh Simpson Mega Planet American Studio Art Glass PaperweightSigned Glass Paperweight Rare Josh Simpson Dated 1984 "p.10.60" Metallic Vortex!Signed Baccarat France Crystal Black Art Glass Taurus Bull Sculpture Paperweight2.75” Scott Bayless Lotton Studios Art Glass Paperweight No Rsv Bc5 CollectionOrient & Flume 1975 Surface Decorated Glass Paperweight / Presse PapiersSigned Lalique France Perche Fish Frosted Art Glass Paperweight Figurine Nr AvmPerthshire 1999 Ltd. Edn. Paperweight With Original Label & Date Cane Antique C.1920 Almeric Walter Pate De Verre Art Glass Scarab Beetle Paperweight4.25” Scott Bayless Lotton Studios Art Glass Paperweight No Rsv Bc5 CollectionPulled Feather Vintage 3" Diameter Art Glass Iridescent Paperweight Signed!!!Antique Baccarat Millefiori Mushroom + Cobalt Torsade Glass Paperweight, C. 1850Cathy Richardson 3 1/2" Bristle Cone Pine Tree Studio Art Glass PaperweightSigned Peter Raps Floral Art Glass Paperweight 2001 NrHtf Carolyn Marie Smith Studio Art Glass Lampwork Red Tulip PaperweightOld Murano Carpet Ground Millefiori Glass Paperweight / Presse PapiersBoxed St. Louis Sulphide Statue Of Liberty Millefiori Art Glass PaperweightJohn Deacons Millefiori Scramble June Signed Glass Paperweight / Presse PapiersVintage Willie Manson Scotia Snowman Glass Paperweight / Presse Papiers2.5” Scott Bayless Lotton Studios Art Glass Paperweight No Rsv Bc5 Collection 22.5” Scott Bayless Lotton Studios Art Glass Paperweight No Rsv Bc5 CollectionVtg Murano Italy Millefiori Lot Of 3 Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmVintage Pairpoint Studio Art Glass Crimp Rose Pedestal Handmade PaperweightPair Vintage Italian Murano Art Glass Millefiori Paperweight Perfume Bottles2.5” Scott Bayless Lotton Studios Art Glass Paperweight No Rsv Bc5 Collection 1Signed Caithness Scotland Fiesta Hand Blown Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmNice Vintage Perthshire Paperweight Pink Flower W/milliflori Ring Grief ScotlandPerthshire Studios PaperweightSteven Lundberg Glass Paperweight Vtg Murano Italy Millifiori Judaica Studio Cased Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmVintage Strathearn Scottish Millifiori Casesd Studio Art Glass Paperweight AvmBeautiful Glass Millefiori PaperweightVintage Orient & Flume Paperweight Art Glass Sighned 1976 Hearts And Vines .Stunning Caithness 'flower In The Rain' Paperweight - Signed BaseVintage American Studio Art Glass Paperweight By EickholtPerthshire Crieff Scotland Ruby Ground Millefiori Paperweight Star Cut Base 2.5"Antique Baccart Pansy Paperweight 1850's NsVintage Studio Art Glass Crown Spiral Ribbons PaperweightChris Belleau Providence Ri, Pulled Threads Flower Petal Art Glass Paperweight Caithness Glass Le Pinnacle 1988 Paperweight + Box + Cert / Presse PapiersSigned Mystery Artist Cased Hand Blown Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmSigned Mystery Artist Studio Hand Blown Cased Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmSigned Mystery Artist Hm Cased Hand Blown Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmSt Louis Sulphide Queen Elizabeth Ii Coronation Millefiori Art Glass PaperweightJoe Rice 2008 Christmas Snowman Sulphide Glass Paperweight St ClairSigned Caithness Scotland Snow Trail Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr AvmVintage Joe St Clair Magnum Studio Art Glass Snake Sulphide PaperweightStunning Round Heavy Purple Petrol Effect Okra Art Glass Paperweight 282g BoxedVtg Mantorp Sweden Swedish Hand Blown Studio Art Glass Paperweight Nr Avm

Recent News: Art Glass Paperweights

Source: Google News

Larkfield Glass - blowing glass exhibition and sale
Journal Gazette and Times-Courier, December 15th

We've got 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 collectable heirlooms. Christmas is...Read more

Art openings, classes, events in and around Asheville
Asheville Citizen-Times, December 13th

MAKE GLASS CUP OR PAPERWEIGHT: The Asheville Glass Center, 109 Roberts St., Asheville. Half-hour sessions for beginners to experience off hand glassblowing. Trained shop assistants walk you through the process of making your own artwork from hot ...Read more

Holiday gifts that give back
KSDK, December 12th

St. Louis Zoo animal paintings-- These works of art are created by some of the animals that live at the St. Louis Zoo. Artwork ... St. Jude paperweights-- $5 from the purchase of each hand-blown glass paperweight goes directly to St. Jude Research...Read more

Something for everyone
Boston Herald, December 10th

From food and wine pairing to comedy workshops to glass blowing or writing, there's a new hobby for all of the ladies and gents of leisure on your list. ... $32.50 at the Gift Shop at the Institute of Contemporary Art or at www.icastore...Read more

Head shops, truck stops and giant underpants: NJ's 10 best spots for offbeat ..., December 9th

There's the Museum of American Glass and artist studios, plus a general store, Christmas shop, fine craft gallery, even a paperweight shop. And learn about South Jersey's rich glassblowing history while you're there. WheatonArts and Cultural Center...Read more

Museum hosting two events (subscription), December 7th

Brilliant blues, vibrant yellows, and various shades of green. These colors adorn blown glass vases, plates, paperweights, and other items currently on display at the museum. Marty Lockstone, a Weatherford native, is the creator of these beautiful...Read more

Art gallery listings: Dec. 7, 2014
Chico Enterprise-Record, December 6th

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

Italian glassmakers' ancient art shattered by slump, taxes
Chicago Tribune, December 6th

"We are just waiting to die," Mazzuccato, whose father was a glassmaker and whose mother came from a long line of Murano artisans, said as he chain-smoked in his office that was strewn with invoices and glass ashtrays. ... On a recent sunny Tuesday...Read more