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Corning Museum of Glass, The World of Paperweight Masterpieces

This video features many of the 400 weights displayed in the Corning Museum of Glass with an emphasis on those made by French 19th century factories. Also shown are techniques of millefiori, lampworking, sulphides, and crimping, as well as footage of how weights are made today. Included are views of paperweight making at Baccarat, Saint-Louis, Wheaton Village, and the studios of Paul Stankard and Victor Trabucco.

The Crown Jewels

The Crown Jewels -- Glass Paperweights

By Art Elder

Baccarat camomile and buds with millifiore garland, c, 1850          Clichy faceted millifiori mushroom, c. 1850

“The Crown Jewels for Collectors” — that’s what Paul Hollister wrote about fine glass paperweights.  He was one of the foremost scholars of 17th to 19th century glass studies, glass paperweights, and contemporary studio art glass.  Paperweights are considered the most collectable of 19th century glass items, and also the most challenging of the glass arts to make.  Fine glass paperweights are, indeed, rare treasures.

Most antique paperweights of quality were made by one of three French factories, as a sideline, for just 10-15 years in the mid-1800s.  It’s estimated that only about 25,000-30,000 remain today, with many tightly held in museum collections.  Fine contemporary paperweights are made by a limited number of studio artists and are sold either by the artist, or by a small group of specialty dealers.


The mid-to-late 1800s were sentimental and romantic times, heralded by an emerging middle class, resulting from the matured Industrial Revolution.  Letter writing became a fad, and paperweights were sold in stationery stores as an attractive accessory to desk-sets of pens, inkwells, blotters, and fine stationery.  The first glass paperweight was made in 1845 by Venetian glassmakers in response to the letter-writing fad.  They could have been made 300 years earlier because the techniques were known, but paper was then a rare commodity and there was no need for a paperweight.  They are the perfect example of form following function.

Venetian Scramble by Pietro Bagaglia, Murano, c 1845

 The finest were made by the French factories of Baccarat, Clichy, and Saint Louis for only 10-15 years.  By 1855-1860, their production in France sharply fell off as the factories moved on to produce other objects.

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