Glass paperweights are not only beautiful and decorative, but also useful, allowing writers to keep their papers in place. A recent sale at L.H. Selman Ltd. in Chicago had both antique and modern glass paperweights. Prices ranged from $96 for a miniature weight, to $14,400 for a rare, detailed and large antique, two-colored crown paperweight by a French maker that was designed to sit on top of a post at the end of a staircase handrail.  
The first glass paperweights were made in 1845 by Venetian glassmakers and used as a handsome way to anchor stacks of documents and letters written by a burgeoning middle class. The best paperweights were made by French factories, Baccarat (1764–present), Clichy (1837–1870) and Saint Louis (1767–present). By 1855 to 1860, their production in France had decreased as glass factories focused on making other objects. American-made paperweights followed from 1851 into the late 1880s by the Boston and Sandwich Glass Co. (1826–1888), the New England Glass Co. (1818–1888) and by other makers including Dorflinger, Mount Washington, Gillinder and Whithall Tatum. 
A rare, 1848 Baccarat paperweight with scattered millefiori and Gridel silhouette canes sold for $6,000. If you look closely at its intricate design, you will find a horse, deer, dog, goat, rooster, squirrel and other animals. Baccarat created paperweights from 1844 through the 1860s, when they switched their attention to other glass designs. The company resumed millefiori paperweight production in 1957, and lampwork paperweights were re-introduced in the early 1970s. Baccarat stopped making these types of fine glass paperweights in 2002. A 1968 Baccarat “church weight” with closely packed millefiori sold for $960 (pictured on cover).  
An antique Saint Louis paperweight with blue clematis on a latticinio or lattice-like ground brought $1,800. Clematis is a rare flower for a Saint Louis paperweight; their designs more often feature dahlias. A Saint Louis Nymphéas de Monet faceted paperweight made in 1984 sold for $480. 
Clichy made headlines in 1849 for developing a new type of glass that they introduced at the Champs-Élysées Exhibition in Paris. An antique Clichy paperweight with a rose cane amid spaced millefiori sold for $900.  
A modern paperweight made in 1991 by Parabelle Glass was one of a limited edition of 25 with concentric rings of millefiori that sold for $1,320. Artist Gary Scrutton started Parabelle Glass in Portland, Ore., in 1981. He melted his own glass, designed his own molds and created his own colors. His paperweights are compared to the best classical French paperweights. Parabelle closed in 1998.  
An antique blown glass paperweight made by the New England Glass Co. sold for $720. The hollow pear, dark pink on one side and orange on the other, rests on a clear base. And an antique Boston & Sandwich Glass Co. weight with a poinsettia and Lutz rose brought $390.


Paperweight terms to know:

Cane: A segment of glass sliced in cross section from a cylindrical glass rod. 

Gridel silhouette: A cane with the silhouette of a figure or an animal, said to be named after a young boy whose cut paper silhouettes inspired Baccarat’s glass workers. 
Lampwork: A technique in which glass is melted primarily by a hand-held torch or lamp instead of a furnace, and then worked into shapes such as fruit, vegetables, flowers, reptiles and insects. 
Magnum weight: A paperweight with a diameter greater than 3 1/2 inches. 

Millefiori: Italian for “thousand flowers,” it is a glasswork technique in which the artist takes several colored glass rods and layers them together into a desired pattern. They rods are pulled to form a single pencil thin rod that is then sliced into many thin, round, multicolored pieces that look like little flowers. The cross sections are arranged to form patterns within the clear or colored glass.  
Miniature weight: A paperweight with a diameter smaller than 2 inches. 

Photos are courtesy of L.H. Selman Ltd., 410 S. Michigan Ave., Suite No. 207, Chicago, IL 60605. Its Nov. 2, 2020, Auction 76 Fall 2020 can be viewed at  


Paperweight glass varies with each maker which can help identify where a paperweight was made. Consider the color, clarity and brilliance of the glass, along with the imperfections found within the dome. All paperweights have imperfections, and certain glass factories had consistent types of imperfections, such as bubbles. Generally, vintage paperweights are heavier than contemporary ones. 


baccarat paperweight, zodiac canes

Baccarat “Church Weight” paperweight, closely packed multicolored complex millefiori canes with 12 zodiac symbols scattered throughout, acid etched Baccarat mark on base, date cane for 1968, 3 3/16 in. dia., $960.

baccarat paperweight, gridel silhouettes

Antique Baccarat magnum paperweight, scattered complex millefiori canes, Gridel silhouette canes of moth at center surrounded by silhouette canes of a blue flax flower, lovebird, horse, deer, dog, goat, rooster, squirrel, white monkey, hunter and pelican, white upset muslin ground with colored filigree, a ring of diamond cutting around the base, a signature cane, and date cane with 1848, 3 3/4 in. dia., $6,000.

St. Louis paperweight, blue clematis

Antique St. Louis paperweight, blue clematis petals with center pink-dotted yellow match-head cane and green stem with serrated leaves, on white double-swirl latticinio cushion, 2 13/16 in. dia., $1,800.

st. louuis paperweight, lotus

St. Louis Nymphéas de Monet faceted paperweight, white lotus with three tiers of petals and yellow complex cane center, on floating bed of seven green lily pads with two emerging buds, opaque light blue ground, green base with signature cane and date cane for 1884. One of a limited edition of 450 made for the Museum of Giverny, 3 3/16 in. dia., $480.

clichy paperweight, millefiori

Antique Clichy paperweight, pink and green rose cane surrounded by spaced mostly pink complex millefiori canes, with green and cobalt blue accents, on white upset muslin ground, 2 1/4 in. dia., $900.

parabelle glass piedouche paperweight

Parabelle Glass piedouche or pedestal paperweight, pink and green Clichy-style rose surrounded by six concentric rings of millefiori canes of white, red, green, blue and yellow, all inside a purple and white stave basket pulled down into a footed base with a torsade, clear ground, signature cane and date cane for 1991. One of a limited edition of 25, 2 3/8 in. h. by 2 15/16 in. dia., $1,100.

new england glass paperweight, pear

Antique New England Glass Co. paperweight, blushing hollow blown glass pear, dark pink on one side, orange on reverse, with dark calyx and pointed stem, clear cookie base, 2 1/4 in. h. by 2 3/4 in. dia., $720.

sandwich glass paperweight, lutz rose

Antique Boston & Sandwich Glass Co. paperweight, double-tiered pink poinsettia with pointed petals spaced by air bubbles, white and green Lutz rose cane center, and green stem with serrated leaves, clear ground, 2 5/8 in. dia., $390.


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