The earliest paperweights were produced in the mid 1840’s for utilitarian purposes. It used to be common place to leave windows and doors open for ventilation. The paperweights served to keep papers in place at home and in the work place.
A Venetian glass maker by the name of Pietro Bigaglia created the first signed paperweight for exhibit in 1845 at the Vienna Industrial Exhibition. Subsequent world fairs brought popularity to these glass works of art throughout the world. Several French Glass warehouses began producing paperweights to help revive the depressed French glass industry during that time.
Letter writing was very popular then and paperweights soon became a luxury item and a way to decorate the home yet be used to keep a room and papers tidy. Several designs of antique paperweights were produced using a multitude of techniques:
Millefiori: Italian for “thousand flowers” made of cross sections of colorful glass rods
Carpet Ground: An overall pattern of identical millefiori canes
Lampwork: Using a glass burner to manipulate the glass to create representational objects
Scrambled: Whole and broken millefiori canes jumbled together to fill in the entire body of the weight
Paperweights are no longer needed for their original utilitarian purpose but are now collected for their beauty and color. I, myself, have inherited several from my grandfather’s collection. They really are quite beautiful. I plan to use them simply because they remind me of him. Did anyone in your family collect antique paperweights?
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