Paperweights have been around since the 1800’s. They were first introduced by the French, and then later used in the United States and the United Kingdom. A paperweight is a small, heavy object that is used to place on top of papers to keep them from blowing. This was a great advantage to painters and scripters before paper clicks and board clips were introduced.
Decorative glass paperweights became widely appreciated and collected because of their creative designs. They became so popular that the finest designs were even exhibited at museums.
Paperweights are manufactured by sole artisans and in factories where many artists and technicians collaborate.
How rare the paperweight is, workmanship, design, quality of glass, and condition determine the value of the paperweight. Scratches, glass bubbles and striations depreciated the value of the paperweight as they were visible flaws of the item. Generally, larger weights and weights with more defined detail would be more expensive. Modern day collectors look for distinguishing factors such as artists’ marks, signatures, country of origin and dates. The more significant, the higher the value.
There are in fact different types of paperweights. They are as follows:
• Lampwork paperweights – these paperweights had objects such as animals, flowers, fruit and insects (butterflies specifically), shaped onto them using coloured glass melted into the paperweight. These were produced by studio artists and were highly realistic.
• Millefiori paperweights – This, directly translated means Italian-thousand flowers. It contains thin cylindrical canes that are cross-sectioned. These resembled flowers. These were produced in a factory setting.
• Sulfide paperweights – these paperweights had a medallion or portrait plaque in a cameo-like style made from ceramic that has been reproduced in very fine detail. They often commemorate a special event or person.
• Crown weight paperweights – The crown weight has twisted ribbons, one always a lace white, which radiate from the crown of the centre, down to the base. This paperweight is still one of the most popular till present days.
• California-style paperweights – These are made with painting the surface of the paperweight with molten coloured glass and manipulated with picks or similar shaping tools. This process is called torchwork.
• Victorian portrait paperweights – These are dome glass produced paperweights and contained the pictures of ordinary people produced on a milk glass disk and encased in the paperweight.
• Swirl paperweights – these have two or three colours of opaque rods, radiating in a pinwheel manner from the centre of the milleflori floret. A style similar to this is the marbrie.
Shades of Ngwenya specializes in paperweight manufacturing as well as trophy manufacturing. Visit our website to learn more.