paperweights: China

Chinese paperweights. In every category of paperweights there are crummy, fair, good, and sometimes great, fabulous, or unparalleled individual weights. Admittedly, many Chinese weights are poor quality … but not all of them. In some instances, especially in the early 20th century, the problem was the quality of the glass while the artistic elements were often superior. In my opinion, a top quality paperweight collection can include a section for Chinese weights. Indeed, the collection at the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum includes Chinese paperweights. A collection of only Chinese weights could be amazing too. Some demean Chinese weights by calling them “mere copies,” but were not even the finest French Classical Period pieces at first copies of Venetian and Silesian works. The Chinese weights I most appreciate have an eastern flair to them that is difficult to describe – even the canes somehow evoke Chinese ideographic writing. Floral weights sometimes convey a sense of simplicity as perfection, as with seemingly simple calligraphy. Some of the most delicate and attractive crimp flowers ever made were made in China, yet they sell for a fraction of the cost of American made crimp flowers in most instances. A Chinese dragonfly weight sold for more than $1100 on eBay in October 2012 – a copy of a Baccarat. Another way to appreciate Chinese weights is to use them. You do not want all your paperweights locked away in a curio cabinet – you can actually use these as paperweights or decorations around the house where you may not want to leave an expensive Clichy. I have a 12-pound Chinese paperweight displayed proudly and centrally in my home and when the sun slants through it in the late afternoon, it is a thing of great beauty. Everybody can have a beautiful and interesting paperweight collection, regardless of one’s budget.  As with all of my paperweights, my Chinese paperweights are top quality – no junk, but expect some bubbles and debris and/or color in the glass in the older ones.

Note on Chinese Plum Blossoms weights. Let me be clear about this: I love these plum blossom weights. These are important Chinese weights. While most contemporary Chinese weights were copies of other cultures’ work, these sprang from the true spirit of ancient Chinese Art tradition. The early versions are typically two blossoms and four buds. Many varieties exist. We know that the first of this general style were made in the 1930s. I believe we can surmise that the general style continued to be made for some years onward. The early versions have glass that grayed substantially over time and often the glass is poor quality.

PW566. Chinese Plum Blossoms, circa 1930s. This is one of the classic early pieces with dark glass. This one has especially poor quality glass for one of these, although that’s not particularly noticeable unless you hold it to the light. Condition is excellent. Flat ground base. 2 3/8 inch diameter; 1 5/8 inches tall; eight ounces.  $40  See note regarding this type in the introduction.

PW394. China Spaced in Twisted Filigree Museum Piece, circa 1930s. This is one of the very early Chinese weighs, an apparent attempt to copy a French weight. This is certainly one of the originals as evidenced by everything about it, from the colors to the yellowed borosilicate glass. It has a tag on the base with a number that was on it when I got it. It must be from an old collection. The maker obviously took time to arrange the canes into a nice spaced in twisted filigree design. Condition is excellent with light signs of use. 3 7/16 inch diameter; 2 9/16 inches tall; one pound and eight ounces.   $75 

PW654. Modern Asian TWO POUNDS AND FOUR OUNCES Lampwork Dahlia Magnum. This is an attractive and well-made paperweight. Dahlias have been a paperweight motif since the 1840s and this one is better than a lot you see. The bright red flower, centered by a distinctly Chinese yellow cane, is nicely constructed, petal by petal, and sits on a stem above three thick, variegated leaves and it all rests above a mottled ground. This is one of the best paperweights to come from China in modern years. Whether this is for your collection or actually use as a paperweight, it is well made and attractive. Like many Chinese weights, it has a distinctive Asian flair. Condition is New/Excellent. It is very large and substantial. The red really pops. This is my favorite weight to keep around the house where people can pick it up and study it – a conversation piece and a good piece to use to explain lampwork and how it is made. 3 15/16 inch diameter; 2 13/16 inches tall; two pounds and four ounces.  $25

PW688. Modern Chinese ENORMOUS Lampwork Plus Crimp Magnum. This is an eye-catching beauty. I have a similar one on display in the entryway of my house and it attracts a lot of comments and interest. It includes a lovely crimp-like pink flower with pistils and stamen, two green trumpet-shaped flowers, and three cute frogs, one of which is in the process of jumping from his perch. The ground is translucent watery blue and includes some cane work. Condition is New/Excellent. 6 1/2 inch diameter; 6 inches tall; twelve pounds and eleven ounces – consider how big that is!  $225

PW1576. Chinese Plum Blossoms, circa 1930s. This is one of the classic early pieces with dark glass. This one has especially nice glass for one of these.  Condition is Excellent. Flat ground base. 2 1/2 inch diameter; 1 5/8 inches tall; eight ounces.  $60  See note regarding this type in the introduction.

PW1793. Chinese Floral Magnum Museum Piece, circa 1930s. This is one of the very early Chinese weights, an apparent attempt to copy a French weight. This is certainly one of the originals. The artist did an excellent job with the lampwork and the filigree. It’s one of the best of the type, in my opinion. I was once involved in a conversation about Chinese weights with one of America’s preeminent glass artists – in reply to someone who said he thought Chinese weights were not well made, he replied, “Some of them are very well made – they just have crappy glass”. The glass is typical for the time and place. Excellent condition. It has a ground, flat base. 3 9/16 inch diameter; 1 13/16 inches tall; one pound and two ounces.   $85

PW2266. Chinese Plum Blossoms, circa 1950-60s. Nice form and colors. Condition is Excellent – good glass. Flat ground base. 2 1/2 inch diameter; 1 5/8 inches tall; eight ounces.  $40  See note regarding this type in the introduction.

PW2421. Chinese Plum Blossoms, circa 1950-60s. Nice color and good glass. Condition is Excellent. Flat ground base. 2 1/2 inch diameter; 1 5/8 inches tall; eight ounces.  $60   See note regarding this type in the introduction.

PW2524. Dynasty Gallery 3-tier crimp flower magnum Museum Piece. The glass is yellowed but quite clear. It is likely from the 1950s or 1960s. Pieces like this should not be confused with the thousands of crappy Chinese glass paperweights that crowd the market. This is a nice piece. Dynasty made some excellent weights, including this one. These are more scarce than you may think.  Beginning in 1951, Dynasty Glass produced some very nice collector quality glass paperweights – far better quality than average Chinese glass paperweights. This one’s a many-petaled orange crimp flower with three layers of stem and leaves. Condition is excellent. 3 5/16 inch diameter; 3 3/4 inches tall; two pounds and one ounce.  $65

PW2916. Crimp Iris Bouquet, faceted. I am fairly sure this is Chinese but is may be Czech. It’s an attractive weight featuring a dense crown of red petals atop a mass of green stems. The weight is multi-faceted with a flat base. Condition is excellent. 2 1/2 inch diameter; 2 3/4 inches tall; twelve ounces.  $20

PW433. China Millefiori Museum Piece, circa 1930s. This is one of the very early Chinese weights, an apparent attempt to copy a Clichy. Although it’s unlikely to fool anyone into thinking it’s a Clichy, it’s a nice weight in its own right. You see a lot of this general type as they continued to make them for many years (even today, I think). But this is certainly one of the originals. It’s one of the best of the type, in my opinion. The glass is typical for the time and place. Extra Fine condition with just a few light scratches. It has an unground, fire-polished pontil, as do the very early pieces. 3 1/8 inch diameter; 1 3/4 inches tall; thirteen ounces.   $30

PW800. Chinese Floral Museum Piece, circa 1930s. This is one of the very early Chinese weights, an apparent attempt to copy a Boston & Sandwich paperweight. The glass is typical for the time and place. Extra Fine condition with just a few light scratches. It has a ground and polished concave pontil.  3 ¼ inch diameter; 1 15/16 inches tall; fifteen ounces.   $60

PW1669. Chinese Flower and Bud in the style of Baccarat. Circa 1930-50s. We know that the first of this general style were made in the 1930s and were designed after antique French and American paperweights. I believe we can surmise that the general style continued to be made for some years onward. Condition is Fine – it has a few scattered scratches. 2 13/16 inch diameter; 2 1/8 inches tall; thirteen ounces.  $40

PW2029. Chinese Flower in the style of Baccarat, circa 1930-50s. We know that the first of this general style were made in the 1930s and were designed after antique French and American paperweights. I believe we can surmise that the general style continued to be made for some years onward. Condition is excellent. 2 9/16 inch diameter; 1 9/16 inches tall; eight ounces.  $35

PW2484. Chinese Plum Blossoms, circa 1950-60s. The colors in this one are unusually varied  and translucent – very pretty. Condition is Excellent – good glass. Flat ground base. 2 1/4 inch diameter; 1 9/16 inches tall; six ounces.  $40

PW807. Chinese Trumpet Flower. Chinese glass artists made this general style of weight beginning in the 1930s, but this one is newer.The glass is more clear than the oldest Chinese weights. Nice shading from purple to violet. 2 9/16 inch diameter; 2 1/2 inches tall; fourteen ounces.  $35

PW983. Chinese Crimp Flower. This is a fairly common type of Chinese crimp flower from the late 20th Century. Nothing fancy. Condition is excellent. 2 7/8 inch diameter; 2 5/8 inches tall; one pound and two ounces.  $16

PW984. Chinese Crimp Rose. This Chinese crimp rose from the late 20th Century or maybe even newer. It’s a nicely made blossom with some delicate shading from orange to pale orange . Condition is excellent. 2 9/16 inch diameter; 2 3/8 inches tall; thirteen ounces.  $20

PW1375. Chinese Modern Millefiori. Ever since the 1930s, some unscrupulous Murano sellers have sold Chinese weights as their own (by the tens of thousands). They are sold complete with Made in Murano labels. Due to costs of labor, it is cheaper to import weights from China than to make them in Italy. This is a Chinese weight made for the Murano market. It is an attractive millefiori paperweight nonetheless. It has an engraved signature on the side near the base that I cannot decipher. Condition is excellent. 3 1/8 inch diameter; 2 3/8 inches tall; one pound and three ounces.  $25 (It would probably cost several times this to produce a comparable weight in Italy.)

PW2191. Chinese Magnum Crimp Rose by Dynasty Gallery. This is a modern Chinese weight, probably 1970s -1980s.  It has the original label, “Dynasty Gallery, Heirloom Collectibles, For Collectors Around the World.” Having been a keen observer of Chinese weight for many years, it is my opinion Dynasty Gallery produced some of the finest weights from China for its time. They are far higher quality on average than most (although not all Dynasty weights are great.) This is a beautiful crimp rose. You can almost see the inner petals unfolding in the morning sun. Condition is excellent. The glass is clear, unlike the old Chinese weights. It’s a beautiful paperweight. 3 1/2 inch diameter; 3 5/8 inches tall; two pounds and two ounces.   $55

PW2895. Chinese Magnum Museum Quality. This is a modern Chinese weight and nicely made. It is a copy of Murano weights, probably made to sell as Murano in Italy.  Excellent condition. 3 5/8 inches in diameter; 2 1/2 inches tall; eleven ounces. $45