At this point, let me digress a minute to talk about prices. I hope the 5 and 6 figure prices that Ive talked about havent discouraged you. The weights bringing these prices are very unusual and rare exceptions. Beginning collectors can find nice antique weights for $500 to $700 from reputable dealers. Modern designs can be acquired for prices beginning as low as $50.
In America during the 1850's, paperweights were brought home as souvenirs by visitors to Paris and London, and certainly by 1853 they became well known because Clichy displayed them at New Yorks Crystal Palace Exhibition that year. None other than Horace Greeley published favorable comments about them in newspapers of the day. American-made weights began to appear that year.
About 1860, the manufacture of fine paperweights sharply declined in Europe, due to a number of factors. The economic surge of the Industrial Revolution during the 1860's caused the glass factories to turn their production away from the small and moderately priced paperweights, to more grandiose commissions such as palatial crystal and chandeliers. Additionally, many poor-quality weights were being produced by less-qualified artists. These discouraged the marketplace, and paperweights fell out of fashion. However, a very short-term revival of paperweight making occurred in 1878, when some very dimensional and exquisite pieces were made by the Pantin factory in Paris. These are very rare and much sought after.
In the 1860's, American-made paperweights were commonplace, and the American market for them was strong. Most of the American glass makers were European immigrants already skilled in the art. This explains why early American weights are imitative of the European style. Later American weights developed their own unique style. The better American-made weights were produced in the next 30 years, or until 1890. Limited production continued into the 1900's, when declining quality discouraged the market as it had in Europe 40 years earlier. The techniques for making paperweights was lost, because nothing was recorded about the manufacturing secrets.
The better American weights rarely attained the precision and quality of their French counterparts. They are easily distinguishable from the French weights, and appear somewhat primitive in comparison. To many collectors, however, they are all the more endearing because of these differences.
Here are a few examples of American weights made in the 1860-1900 time frame.
|On the left is a New England Glass overlay upright bouquet. This piece shows an obvious French
influence. The American artists imbued this design with their own special style.|
|A dimensional New England Glass upright bouquet contains both fruit and flowers. Fruit was considered to be just as beautiful as flowers, and was often included in bouquets at the time.|
The poinsettia on the left is a commonly found American weight.
On the Right is a Sandwich weedflower. A number of pieces, such as this red, white, and blue pansy-type bloom, reflect the patriotic spirit of the time. To reference the time, these pieces were being produced around the time of the American Civil War.
The Gillinder carpet ground millefiorion the left is extremely rare. Probably less than 100 were made by Gillinder, and they are considered among the finest of American weights.
The rose on the right by the Mt. Washington factory probably represents the most sought after American design.