Now that so many people have and use computers it is perhaps easy to forget that the somewhat humble sounding paperweight once served an important function and that very many very beautiful ones were created. It is also somewhat ironic that their obsolescence is what has primarily made them almost a perfect beginning collector’s item.
At the present time the most popular paperweights are the solid glass ones with a dome shaped top that enables them to act as magnifying glasses. The price range for paperweights varies greatly with a French one having once been sold for a record $258,500.00.
That said, exceedingly nice ones can often be bought for just a few pounds.
The golden age of paperweights is considered to have been somewhere between 1845 and 1865 as it was during that period that three great French glass manufacturers produced some of today’s most sought after glass ones. The names of the three manufacturers were Baccarat, Clichy and St. Louis.
Other popular shapes are toothpick holders and inkwell ones and although today their purpose is obviously more decorative than practical they continue to serve as examples of the fine workmanship of the glass artisans.
In 1882 a process was patented by William Maxwell which enabled pictures and advertising to be placed inside the glass ones which opened up new markets and it became quite common for house owners to enshrine a picture of themselves inside a favourite paperweight.
If you are new to collecting antiques or haven’t yet started then I can suggest no better place to start than with paperweights. They might not be the first thing that comes to mind when the word antiques is mentioned but many are extremely beautiful as well as inexpensive and they now occupy a recognised niche of their own.