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A Treasure Trove of Paperweights from the Union Glass Company

A Treasure Trove of Paperweights from the Union Glass Company

Union Glass Company of Sommerville, Massachusetts (1851-1927) is known by most collectors for their large commemorative style paperweights. They usually feature lampwork names and/or dates adorned with rather simple flowers, poinsettias, and other lampwork elements such as crosses or flags. Click on the photo below to view over 160 unique examples.

160 UnionPaperweights.pdf

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.

What is a Paperweight?

What is a Paperweight?

by Steve Richardson, PCA Outreach Director

If you have been collecting for even a short time, you have probably heard that question a few times. If you haven’t heard it out loud, you’ve at least run across people who give you a blank stare of polite puzzlement when you tell them what you collect in your spare time.

Saint Louis 3-Flower bouquet, c.1850The confusion starts with the word “paperweight” itself. Even the earliest modern paperweights were designed more as decorative objects than as utilitarian tools to keep papers from blowing off your desk. It might have been more helpful to refer to them as glass sculptures or miniature worlds or – as some artists today call them – orbs.

Snow globeThe more fundamental problem, though, is that many things have been called paperweights. There are also many small objects – think snow globes or pet rocks – that fit the broad definition of being mildly artistic and commonly found on desks. I find it difficult to explain why those don’t belong in my paperweight collection, at least without sounding a bit snobbish.

David Graeber paperweight

Chinese paperweight

Part of the problem is that we each have personal feelings about what is “artistic”. We build a mental hierarchy that includes everything from the Mona Lisa to our grandchildren’s refrigerator art, and we draw a line that puts pet rocks on one side and real paperweights on the other. Another part is that many objects that PCA members collect are, frankly, expensive. They are items that people buy with discretionary income. If you have collected even a few costly paperweights, you may appear to be in different circumstances than people who can only afford snow globes. This is very delicate territory, particularly when we are debating about where mass-marketed Chinese weights and some Murano weights fall in the spectrum.

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