The history of paperweights had its beginnings in the early 1840s...probably first in Silesia (in Karlsthal) and then in Venice. They were first displayed at the Exhibition of Austrian Industry in Vienna in 1845, and within no time, these glass artifacts were being produced by glasshouses in Bohemia, France, England and - a few years later - in the United States of America. Paperweights were also made in the 19th Century - on a much smaller scale - in Thuringia (in Germany), Belgium and Russia.
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The classic period of French paperweight production is considered to be ca. 1845 to 1865, after which their popularity steadily declined, although they continued to be produced at a couple of glasshouses into the 1880s. The main French producers were the big 3: Baccarat, Clichy and St. Louis. Other early producers were St. Mandé and Grenelle. Later on - in the 1870s - Pantin produced a small number of weights.
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In England, two companies are known to have produced paperweights in the 19th Century: George Bacchus & Son and the Islington Glassworks, both in Birmingham. But some fine English paperweights cannot be attributed to either company, so other glasshouses must also have been producing millefiori canes. Unfortunately, it has not proved possible to identify them conclusively and, currently, they are grouped under the heading “Old English” - which covers late 19th Century paperweights right up to the 1920/30s.
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In mid to late 19th Century Germany, the main areas of glass production were Silesia, Thuringia and the Bavarian Forest. Numerous glassworks produced post-classic paperweights from ca. 1875 into the 20th century. Thuringian paperweights tend to have relatively simple canes with a predominance of bright colours (turquoise & orange-yellow). Silesian post-classic paperweights are generally of a better quality, often set on latticinio baskets. German paperweights only appear infrequently on the market, so it must be assumed that paperweight production was a sideline for the glasshouses or that they were made by glassworkers after hours.
For classic Silesian paperweights (Josephinenhütte / Josephine Glassworks) see the category: Bohemia/Silesia.
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