Where did paperweights come from, you might be wondering? Glass paperweights date back to the time paper was first invented. A paperweight is a small object that is heavy enough to keep papers from blowing away. Given that paper was invented around 100 BC in China by the Han Dynasty, the paperweight was sure to follow shortly after. It is thought that the paperweights were a common tool in the scholar’s studios back then and were made of white jade.
By the 18th and 19th centuries, the paperweights’ popularity had grown to Europe and in 1845, a Venetian glassmaker Pietro Bigaglia showcased his glass weights at the Vienna Industrial Exposition. Although paperweights were inexpensive to produce, they were considered a luxury item that helped decorate rooms and kept paper organised. Throughout time, many artists broke away from the traditional art of paperweights and tried new and bold techniques to create something special and unique. For example, Louis Comfort Tiffany, an American artist, and designer, created decorative vases that were similar to the classic paperweights. Tiffany’s goal was to bring beauty to one’s environment and he believed that decorative arts were even more important than the fine arts at the time, because they were reaching a wider audience.
In the 19th century, paperweights were made in England, Venice, Bohemia, and the United States. France, however, was at the heart of paperweight production. The most famous pieces came from Baccarat, Saint Louis, Clichy, and Pantin factories. Clichy was the only house, whose paperweights were displayed at the Great Exposition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851. Paperweights soon became the ultimate desk accessory, bringing colour and life to everyone’s home.
How are glass paperweight made?
Traditionally, everything inside the paperweight is also made of glass. Some paperweights and most of the ones in the Neustadter collection are made using millefiori canes or lampwork. Lampworking is a type of glasswork, where the glass is melted and then shaped using hand movements and instruments. Millefiori Cane, on the other hand, is something different. The term millefiori comes from two Italian words, mille (thousand) and fiori (flowers). It is a glasswork technique that produces decorative patterns. This method involves the creation of glass canes or rods that are later on heated in a furnace and pulled thin. The record price for a millefiori paperweight is set to a quarter-million dollars in 1990. The piece was produced in the mid-1800s by the French Clichy factory.
Glass paperweights have had a rich history and are still used in our daily lives. Although paperweights vary in their shape and form, material and decoration techniques, they come in handy when you are looking for bespoke gifts. Organisations, for example, use corporate paperweights as a promotional item, on which they can print or engrave their bespoke design. Whether you are using them for an event giveaway and a personalised present for your loved ones, glass paperweights are still very much admired and sought after.