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Antique Murano Glass

The history of paperweights was documented as early as the 15th century when Sabellico, a Venetian historian wrote about a "little ball" filled with images of "all sorts of flowers." The technique he was describing is referred to millefiori, which literally means," thousands of flowers." Even to this day, the millefiori technique is the most popular effect used in paperweights.

Around 1833, a glass factory in what is now Poland began producing glass millefiori and soon after, Pietro Bigaglia, in Venice, also started making glass paperweights which were introduced to the world at an international fair held in 1845. These paperweights were warmly accepted and started to be produced throughout Europe. The years 1845 through 1860, are known as the "Classic Period" for paperweights; with some of the best and most beautifully crafted weights coming from France. With the exception of several exquisite pieces produced in France in the late 1870s, paperweight production virtually ceased in Europe after 1860.

From the turn of the 20th Century to the beginning of World War II, weights were generally only made by studio artists, making individual pieces at a time. Glass making techniques were revolutionized during the 1940s, ushering in the "Contemporary Period" of glass paperweights in America and throughout Europe. New and modern techniques are responsible for the beauty and uniqueness of most modern weights, but many of the classic designs and artistry of Millefiori and lampwork remain to this day.

The history of glass paperweights is one of the developments of unique and innovative techniques designed to enclose and protect the small work of art that is the beauty of the weight. Not only were such designs as millefiori perfected and preserved, but techniques such a lampwork, where images such as flowers, fruits and butterflies were crafted so beautifully that their appearance was often lifelike. Sulphide designs were also developed that encased small portraits within the paperweights.

Paperweights are made today to commemorate historic events, remind us of the places we have visited or just to be admired as a beautiful keepsake or work of art. The original function of holding down papers and preventing them from being scattered by the wind has been deemed unimportant, if not totally useless. But these fine pieces of ornamental glass continue to attract us and inspire a feeling of awe. While they might not be seen on desks, holding down envelopes or correspondence, glass paperweights can still be found on mantels, shelves and in cases, throughout the world. The love of a beautiful work of art is an obvious factor in the history of paperweights.

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