A paperweight is a small, yet solid object, which is heavy enough that when placed on top of papers it keeps them from blowing away.
While it may be the case that any object can serve as a paperweight as long as it is heavy enough, it is still common for people to use decorative paperweights.
The earliest paperweights seem to have emerged in Europe in the mid-1840s. The Venetian glassmaker Pietro Bigaglia exhibited the first dated and signed paperweights at the Vienna Industrial Exposition in 1845.
Some have suggested that the classic period of paperweight making was 1845-1860. It was in this time that the French factories Clichy, Baccarat, Saint Louis, and Pantin started exploring many different glassmaking techniques. It is said that they perfected the millefiori technique, and created motifs such as the flameworked fauna and flora.
In 1851, Prince Albert from the UK sponsored the Great Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, which took place at Crystal Palace, London. This showcased international artistic creations, some of which were paperweights. It was following the Great Exhibition that paperweights began to be produced in many countries.
During the 19th Century the ornamental paperweight satisfied the desire for decoration, and indulgent luxuries. Writing letters was a popular activity at this time; thus paperweights became an essential item, especially for those with drafty rooms. Some paperweights even incorporated inkwell design, and letter clips, so as to become multi-functional.
Paperweights were also made in the United Kingdom and the United States at this time. Some from Bacchus, and New England Glass Company equalled the quality produced by the French.
Modern paper weights have been made from 1950 to the present day. Charles Kaziun, from the US, produced inkwells, paperweights, and buttons. It was in Scotland where Paul Ysart started producing impressive pieces, and also paved the way for a new generation of artists, such as: John Deacons, Peter Holmes, and Peter McDougall.