Identifying Nineteenth Century English Paperweights: White Friars, Stourbridge, Bristol, Bacchus and Sons
By Mary Haberstroh
White Friars, formally known as the James Powell Glass Works, was founded in 1680 outside of London, England. When the factory first began, only flint glass was made but after 1845, a much finer sand was used to make higher quality glassware. White Friars millefiori canes were Victorian in design and became commercially popular after being shown at the 1851 London Exhibition. As with other English glass companies like Bristol and Stourbridge, French glassmakers were initially employed at British glass factories to hand down the art of making glass paperweights. White Friars continued manufacturing glassware and paperweights until 1980 when they closed.
White Friars used only one date to identify their paperweights, 1848. This date appears in unique figures on one paperweight, where it appears as 08f0, in blue. This paperweight is made of bicolor millefiori canes with fluted edges. There are six concentric circles in this paperweight, which has a first row of blue and white canes, the second row, orange and white canes, the third row, red and white canes, the fourth row, blue and white canes, the fifth row, white canes, and the last row, alternating green and white, and red and white canes. The date appears on one white cane in this last row at the edge of the glass. Because White Friars, like other English glass paperweight manufacturers, did not leave a signature or date on each piece. Additionally, some early English glass paperweights are difficult to identify. Later White Friars paperweights, especially those manufactured during the twentieth century, have price values ranging from a few hundred dollars to five hundred dollars.
Bacchus millefiori concentric paperweight, 1850 (see "George Bacchus and Sons" below). Photo courtesy of Nancy Alfano, Portia Paperweights.
In 1556 a glass factory was established in Worcestershire, England by Hungarian immigrants. Later on, Stourbridge manufactured glass paperweights at Cork, Ireland. Glass workers from the Saint Louis company in the Lorraine region of France introduced the millefiori paperweight styles, which explains the similar influence on Stourbridge: the use of pale colors and deep well cane arrangements. Stourbridge created some of the finest English glassware in the nineteenth century. By the 1670's, lead crystalware was made by Stourbridge. In 1845, millefiori canes were used in glassware and paperweights. The Venetian influence was also obvious in the paperweights, having been brought over by French glassmakers to the W.H.P. and J. Richardson glass company near Stourbridge.
A few Stourbridge paperweight descriptions follows:
One paperweight has a domed top of clear glass in a mushroom shape while the bottom part of the paperweight has four concentric circles of fluted edged canes surrounding a large star shaped center. The first row of canes has a white center and a dark outside while the next three rows have dark colored centers and white outsides.
Another paperweight has six tightly packed concentric circles surrounding a center of much smaller canes. The concentric circles have white edges and dark centers.Stourbridge paperweights in excellent condition range from several thousand dollars to five thousand dollars each.
BristolGlassware made in Bristol, England, began in the late sixteenth century. While clear glassware was made, opaque glassware by the company was also manufactured and the one color the Bristol companies became famous for was sapphire blue. This shade of blue came from sand with antimony in it, but later on in the early eighteenth century cobalt oxide was added to produce a vibrant blue color to the glass. Isaac Jacobs perfected imitation Venetian glass in the 1780's, producing paperweights with white latticinio backgrounds and glass lampwork flowers in the center of the paperweight. One common feature of these paperweights is a pear shaped bubble that was created by poking the hot, pliable glass with a sharp pointed tool to create the unique bubble shape. An alternative method was to introduce a drop of alcohol to the glass, which created the bubble.
A description of some nineteenth Bristol paperweights are as follows:
A faceted paperweight with five facets on the side and one facet on the top, has an engraved floral and leaf design between each facet. Each round facet has narrow rays surrounding it. The paperweight is of clear glass.
Another paperweight with millefiori canes has two garlands intertwined around the edge forming six loops, surrounding a butterfly in the center. The butterfly has an outline of canes in multicolors. The background of the paperweight is sapphire blue.
A paperweight has a purple and yellow pansy with green leaves, all in lampwork. A star millefiori cane is in the center of the pansy.
The value of nineteenth century Bristol paperweights range from $3,000 to $7,000 dollars.
George Bacchus and Sons
George Bacchus and Sons, located in Birmingham, England, began as a glass company in 1818 as Bacchus, Green and Green. In the 1840's it was renamed and by 1845 started making millefiori paperweights. Bacchus paperweights are rare, usually have tight concentric circles of canes, and are placed at an angle to flow with the shape of the paperweight.
A few descriptions of Bacchus paperweights follows:
A paperweight with the silhouette of a bust in the center has alternating pink and blue canes, blue and white canes, pink, white and blue star canes, and blue and white canes in concentric circles.
Another paperweight has six concentric circles of white canes with pink centers. The center of the weight is a pink flower with a red center. The outermost row of canes is green and white.
A paperweight of six concentric circles surrounds a blue, white, and red center. The first row has white canes, the second row has white canes with a red center, the third row has white canes with pink centers, the fourth row has white with blue stars in the center, the fifth row has white with blue and white centers, and the last row has white with red centers. This paperweight has a clear base.
A paperweight of primarily white canes with blue or red centers in both star and flower shapes is tightly packed.
Paperweights from the 1850's value from $4,000 to $7,000 per paperweight.
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