Fine glass paperweights have been produced since the 19th Century and have since become appreciated as collectibles and objet’s d’art by many people. Some antique paperweights are true works of art with exquisite patterns encapsulated within polished crystal balls. They make excellent collectibles since most of them are produced by dedicated craftsmen, and usually in limited editions.
The earliest decorative paperweights were produced from 1845 in France. One of the most famous French towns that produced art glass was Baccarat, where the namesake of the paperweights comes from. Baccarat produced what’s known as ‘Millefiori’ paperweights which featured scattered pieces of coloured glass tubes. The name comes from Italian meaning “a thousand flowers” due to the colourful and fragmented style of decoration. Other motifs included intricate flower designs and another Baccarat speciality known as ‘Gridel’ silhouettes depicting tiny animals. Early Baccarat pieces can be identified from signature and date tubes that were included within the decoration.
Clichy paperweights were produced around the same time as Baccarat. Clichy-la-Garenne was the name of the French town, where these weights were produced between 1846 and 1857. They also produced Millefiori patterns, that were more affordable in order to remain competitive in a depressed economic climate of France. Clichy differed from other makes by using a lighter type of glass than other manufacturers and by having brighter coloured tubes and glass for their patterns. Their trademark was known as the ‘rose shaped tube’ which was used in many of their paperweights. Lacy, patterned backgrounds known as ‘latticinio’ were also commonly used by Clichy. Their signature was the letter C, which usually appeared in black, green or red in the centre of a tube.
There are many reasons to collect antique paperweights, whether if its for an art exhibition, a private collection or decorative accoutrement. However, their monetary value should not be overlooked as many of the genuine French pieces can fetch a very high price on the market, especially if they are part of a set.