Identifying Nineteenth Century Baccarat Paperweights
By Mary Haberstroh
Baccarat paperweights became a staple of the famous French glass company in the nineteenth century. The company was founded in 1764 and became France's major glass company by 1822. Louis XVIII became the patron of the Baccarat company, promoting the glass arts of the company. Located in the Alsace-Lorraine country of France, Baccarat became renowned for making lead crystal paperweights based on the Italian millefiori pattern. Millefiori means “thousand flowers” in Italian and is derived from the mosaic bead patterns that date as early as ancient Roman times. These patterns were imitated in the form of glass canes then cut across to reveal colorful smaller round beads that were then formed into patterns then fused to a crystal globe. By 1846, Baccarat perfected the design of millefiori paperweights, often incorporating animal silhouette canes and making perimeter borders of canes around a central flower, fruit, or animal design in the crystal paperweight. For a brief period following the eighteenth century, Baccarat decreased production of these paperweights but the manufacture of them revived in 1953 and became highly sought after collectibles. Baccarat paperweights were identified by the following markings, the letter B and the date following it. Sometimes an additional letter followed the date to signify the glassmaker's name. These identifying dates are as follows:
B1846. The B is in red while the 1 and 4 are in blue, the 8 and 6 are in red in color.
B1847. The B is in blue with the 1 in green, 8 and 7 are in blue, and the 4 is red in color.
B1848. The B is blue while the 1 and 4 are green and the 8's are in red.
1849. There is no letter B in the front; the 1 and 4 are green, the 8 and 9 are in red.
In nineteenth century Baccarat paperweights the signatures are located to one side of the design and never in the center. The dates can appear in the base of the paperweight so the date is visible as part of the paperweight design. Canes were both in floral and star shape but Baccarat also came out with something called the silhouette cane, meaning that the silhouette shape of a person or animal appeared in the center of the cane. These canes were utilized in many paperweights, frequently mixed with the floral and star canes, packed close together. Silhouette canes were also used in outlining the central design of the paperweight, whether it was a flower or piece of fruit. Arrows were also another common cane design in the paperweights and came in many different colors. These are the main trademark patterns frequently found in Baccarat millefiori paperweights. Like the Italian paperweights, concentric circles were made from the canes to form all kinds of designs in the paperweights. Instead of being a globe shaped paperweight, a millefiori Baccarat paperweight can be completely faceted.
Baccarat overlay paperweights began in 1870. These paperweights had surface coatings of colored glass which are called overlays and were applied in many colors. In the single overlay, the most common colors were red, dark blue, or green, with the design visible through the punty, which is usually round or oval in shape, made by a metal rod used to hold the paperweight while the glass is being shaped.
Below is a brief list of a few Baccarat millefiori paperweights:
An 1853 paperweight has canes with elaborate floral designs closely packed at the base of the paperweight. Commonly known as the L'Eglise Baccarat, this paperweight was originally set in the foundation of the Baccarat Church. It was found intact even after the church was bombed during World War II.
A rare 1848 millefiori paperweight contains tightly packed canes with flowers, stars, and silhouette canes bear the date visible in the pattern. The silhouette canes are of a dog, deer, rooster, and pelican.
A 1848 magnum weight has blown glass ribbons of lace, with canes evenly spaced throughout the paperweight. These canes are also of the silhouette variety: deer, elephant, horse, goat, dogs, butterfly, birds, and a squirrel. This was created by Jean-Baptiste Toussaint from the inspiration of a drawing made by his nine year old nephew.
A paperweight labeled B1848 has a carpet background of pale lavender and yellow canes with silhouette cans of animals.
Another B1848 paperweight with a carpet background of red and white contains not only animal silhouette canes but also floral canes.
A paperweight known as the Stardust paperweight is dated 1848 and has grayish white canes forming the carpet background and silhouette and star canes spread at regular intervals on the foreground.
A paperweight of six loops of pink and white canes situated on a translucent blue base has a pink centered white cane in the middle of each loop. The entire design resembles a fancy snowflake.
A paperweight with seven circles of canes on an emerald green background has six of the circles surrounding a middle circle. The canes are pink and white while the center canes are blue and white.
One paperweight with an animal in the center is of a dragonfly with rainbow colored wings, sitting on a white flower with green leaves. The wings bear an imprinted millefiori design. The dragonfly's body is purple. The perimeter of the paperweight is a circle of smaller floral canes.
Another paperweight has green shamrock canes in the center, surrounded by another circle of floral canes, with a third circle of floral canes, and a last circle of butterfly silhouette canes.
The price values of nineteenth century Baccarat paperweights vary, depending on the rarity of the design and the condition of the paperweight. Provided there are minimal air bubbles in the hand-blown glass, with no nicks, scratches or chips in the glass surface, these paperweights can fetch up to five thousand dollars and more. A few price value examples follow:
A 1847 paperweight has very tightly packed cut canes inside a paperweight. Average price value: 3,000.00 dollars
A paperweight dates 1850 has a glass butterfly in the center, with a circular border of millefiori canes. Price value: 4,000 dollars.
About the Author:
Mary Haberstroh lives in Tucson, Arizona and she is a collector of millefiori paperweights. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org