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Rick Ayotte Fruit Weight

Paperweights are decorative objects, designed to hold sheets of paper on a surface to prevent wind from blowing them away.

Paperweights are commonly made from glass, although may also be made from clear acrylic or other materials. They are often collected as examples of fine workmanship, and appreciated for their aesthetic as opposed to their utilitarian aspect. They are often exhibited in art museums as examples of fine glass art.

They generally have a flat base and a domed top, which may be faceted or etched. The weight may be coated with one or more thin layers of colored glass, and have windows cut through it to reveal the interior motif. The ground on which the inner parts rest may be clear or colored, made of unfused sand, or resemble lace (latticinio).

Antique paperweights were made primarily in three French factories, between 1845 and 1860, in Baccarat, St. Louis, and Clichy. Weights (mainly of lesser quality) were also made in the United States, Great Britain, and elsewhere, though Bacchus (UK) and New England Glass Company (USA) produced some that equaled the best of the French. Modern weights have been made from about 1950 to the present.

There are many paperweight collectors worldwide. Several collectors associations hold national or regional conventions, and sponsor activities such as tours, lectures, and auctions.


Types of paperweights

Modern (1994) St. Louis Taracco Carpet Ground

Collectors may specialize in one of several types of paperweights:

Millefiori paperweights contain thin cross-sections of cylindrical composite canes made from colored rods and usually resemble little flowers, although they can be designed after anything. These are usually made in a factory setting. The exist in many variations such as scattered, patterned, close concentric or carpet ground.

Lampwork paperweights have objects such as flowers, fruit, butterflies or animals constructed by shaping and working bits of colored glass with a gas burner or torch and assembling them into attractive compositions, which are then incorporated into the dome. This is a form particularly favored by studio artists.

Sulfide paperweights have an encased three-dimensional medallion or portrait plaque made from a ceramic. They often are produced to commemorate some person or event.

Swirl paperweights have opaque rods of two or three colors radiating like a pinwheel from a central millefiori floret.

Antique Baccarat Pansy

California-style paperweights are made by "painting" the surface of the dome with colored molten glass (torchwork), and manipulated with picks or other tools. They may also be sprayed while hot with various metallic salts to achieve an iridescent look.

Victorian portrait and advertising paperweights were dome glass paperweights first made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania using a process patented in 1882 by William H. Maxwell. The portrait paperweights contained pictures of ordinary people reproduced on a milk-glass disk and encased within clear glass. This same process was also used to produce paperweights with the owner's name encased or an advertisement of a business or product. Pittsburgher Albert A. Graeser, patented a different process for making advertising paperweights in 1892. The Graeser process involved sealing an image to the underside of a rectangular glass blank using a milkglass or enamellike glaze. Many paperweights of the late 1800s are marked either J. N. Abrams or Barnes and Abrams and may list either the 1882 Maxwell or 1892 Graeser patent date. It has been theorized that Barnes and Abrams did not actually manufacture advertising paperweights for their customers, but instead subcontracted the actual manufacturing task out to Pittsburgh area glasshouses. The PCA's Annual Bulletins published for 2000, 2001 and 2002 describe these in detail.

Workmanship, design, rarity, and condition determine the value of a paperweight. They range in price from a few dollars, to a record $258,500 once paid for an antique French weight. Antique weights, of which perhaps 10,000 or so survive (mostly in museums), generally appreciate steadily in value.

Visible flaws, such as bubbles, striations and scratches affect the value. Glass should not have a yellow or greenish cast, and there should be no unintentional asymmetries, or unevenly spaced or broken elements. In a modern piece, an identifying mark and date are imperative.

Glass studios

Paperweights are made by sole artisans, and in factories where many artists and technicians collaborate. Both may produce inexpensive as well as "collector" weights.

A number of small studios appeared in the late 20th century, particularly in the US. These may have several to some dozens of workers with various levels of skill cooperating to produce their own distinctive "line". Notable examples are Lundberg Studios, Orient and Flume, Correia Art Glass, Lotton, and Parabelle Glass.

In the U.S., Charles Kaziun started in 1940 to produce buttons, paperweights, inkwells and other bottles, using lamp-work of elegant simplicity. In Scotland, the pioneering work of Paul Ysart from the 1930s onward preceded a new generation of artists such as William Manson, Peter McDougall, Peter Holmes and John Deacons.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, artists such as Paul Stankard, his former assistant, Jim D'Onofrio, Chris Buzzini, Delmo and daughter Debbie Tarsitano, Victor Trabucco and sons, Gordon Smith, Rick Ayotte and his daughter Melissa, and the father and son team of Bob and Ray Banford, began breaking new ground. The work of Paul Stankard was particularly noted for its incredibly realistic portrayal of flowers, including their roots. He has more recently moved away from the classical domed paperweight to rectangular forms, which are among the finest glass objects produced in the twentieth century.

See also

Further reading

  • Reilly, Pat, (1994) Paperweights: The Collector's Guide to Identifying, Selecting, and Enjoying New and Vintage Paperweights ISBN 1-56138-433-X
  • Selman, Lawrence H. (1992) All About Paperweights ISBN 0-933756-17-8
  • Jargstorf, Sibylle (1997) Paperweights ISBN 0-88740-375-1.
  • Stankard, Paul J. (2007) No Green Berries or Leaves -- The Creative Journey of an Artist in Glass ISBN 0-939923-55-6 softcover and ISBN 0-939923-69-6 hardcover

External links



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