Chapter VI

What to Look for in a Paperweight

It is difficult to instantly assess the value of particular paperweights, hut there are certain factors to be aware of. These factors, which considerably influence the value of a piece, are design, workmanship, condition, and rarity.

Design: Like beauty, design is in the eve of the beholder. Good color and pleasing arrangement of canes, flowers, or other motifs are extremely important. Acquiring a first-rate paperw eight collection, therefore, rests heavily on the collector’s or dealer’s ability’ to evaluate good design.

Workmanship: Fortunately, w orkmanship can he judged objectively. Poor or faulty workmanship shows up in a weight as an imperfection. Few weights are flawless. Still, major flaws will obvi-

6.4 Papenveights displayed with other art objects

6.4 Papenveights displayed with other art objects

6.5 Quality control: destruction of defective weights

6.5 Quality control: destruction of defective weights

ously affect the value of a piece. All paperweight makers exercise a high degree of quality control so that obviously defective pieces rarely become available. Seconds are systematically destroyed. Within the range of acceptable examples, familiarity with the following list of flaws will enable the collector to tell good paperweights from mediocre examples. The collector whose primary consideration is investment should attempt to acquire only first-quality examples.

Here is a checklist of common imperfections found in paperweight motifs:

Design not well centered.

Design too close to top or sides of dome.

Millefiori canes broken.

Millefiori canes unevenly spaced.

.Millefiori canes missing or overcrowded in garland motifs.

Concentric circles of millefiori canes distorted.

Leaves, stems, or flower petals separated.

6.6 Molten glass poured on ini pci feet weights

6.6 Molten glass poured on ini pci feet weights

Leaves, stems, or flower petals misshapen.

Spiral torsade or air rings incomplete.

Color ground or latticinio cushion broken.

The glass surrounding the subject should be carefully scrutinized. Imperfections in any part of the glass have a direct influence on the relative value of a paperweight. The most beautifully crafted subject can be permanently marred by a poor or defective crystal housing.

Here are some common imperfections found in glass:

Dark or yellowish cast.

Striae or fine threadlike lines in the glass, especially if found in the dome.

Extraneous matter or pieces of firebrick trapped in the glass.

Bubbles appearing in the dome or design. (Most designs have a few tiny bubbles trapped around them; however, large, noticeable bubbles in the dome or design are undesirable.)

Condition: The overall condition of a paperweight must he considered when contemplating its purchase. Scratches, chips, and bruises may appear on the surface of the glass as a result of rough handling or misuse. If enough glass is present in the dome, the weight may be saved by grinding and polishing. In this grinding process, an even layer of glass is removed from the entire weight. The thickness of this layer is crucial in relation to the depth of the damage. Poor grinding and polishing can easily ruin the original shape and optics of the weight by creating an uneven surface that distorts the design.

Proper grinding and polishing on a paperweight with sufficient surrounding glass does not devalue

it; however, it is critical that such work be done by a professional, not rock polishers or amateur glass- workers. The value of some weights has been lowered to as little as ten percent of the original value by poor polishing jobs. Consult with an experienced dealer or collector for the name of a professional paperweight conservator.

Rarity: Rarity usually parallels the degree of fine workmanship. However, an unusual color, date, or flower in a more common design may affect its value and availability. Many factors must be considered when assessing the desirability of a weight. Generally, the more complicated a weight’s production, the more desirable it is thought to be.




The following guidelines may be applied when comparing similar motifs:

The larger the weight the better (miniatures excepted).

Color, lace, or latdcinio grounds are generally preferred over clear settings.

Side or top faceting and/or base cutting are usually preferable.

The presence of a certain identifiable cane (i.e., silhouette cane or Clichy rose) is desirable. Signatures and/or dates are an uncommon bonus in antique weights;- they are imperative in modern weights.

Remember that some of these guidelines can be misleading. All weights have some irregularities and imperfections. This is because every paperweight is an individually produced and handcrafted work of art. Collectors should be aware of slight flaws in a piece, but if the overall appearance and condition of the weight is good, these irregularities should not discourage a purchase.

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