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Antique Collectible

Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Rare antique Clichy paperweight recently sold for $165,000. Photo courtesy of Selman's
"Find the seed at the bottom of your heart and bring forth a flower," said Shigenorii Kameoka

Picture a bouquet of a thousand flowers. In the heart of the bouquet rests a soft-pink rose. The flowers are frozen in time and flawlessly preserved within a glass dome no bigger than your fist. A paperweight.

This particular antique paperweight, a millefiori, has been called the most important paperweight in the world. Sought after by collectors for years and written up in numerous books, its owner vowed to never sell it.

He changed his mind.

The rare antique Clichy paperweight recently sold for $165,000. It may well be the most perfect example of artistry to come out of Clichy, a Paris glass factory flourishing in the mid-19th century.

Paperweights are the most difficult of all the glass arts. Millefiori glass was made by stretching different colored molten glass into extremely thin rods known as canes, gathering them into clusters and then cutting them sideways to produce the thousand flower look.

The well-known French writer Colette decorated her apartment in the Palais Royale with paperweights she found in flea markets and described the artistry as one “who knows how to enclose within a transparent prison the flower and grass blade.” Colette chose only what enchanted her and didn’t worry about minor imperfections in the glass.

Other collectors included Queen Mary, King Farouk, Eva Peron, Truman Capote and Robert Guggenheim.

The market for paperweights grew as Victorian leisure-time grew. The Postal service was new. Letter writing became a popular pastime and accessories related to writing were in big demand. Paperweights were high quality, small and moderately priced.

Clichy is thought to have been manufacturing paperweights as early as 1845. Ten years later three major French glass factories, Saint Louis, Clichy and Baccarat were in full production creating some of the most exquisite and technically perfect paperweights known today.

The Great Exposition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851 featured 100,000 exhibits and lasted five months. Clichy was the only French glasshouse whose paperweights were displayed. Viewed by over six million visitors, paperweights became a commodity worldwide.

What makes this particular paperweight great? It’s a visual and technical masterpiece. A frozen garden brought to life in glass through complex, evenly and masterfully distributed canes.

All the delicate distinctions a millefiori connoisseur wants are in place. The artisan was so sure of the quality of this paperweight he gave it a unique full CLICHY signature. Very few Clichy paperweights are signed. When a signature does appear, the most frequently seen is a simply “C.”

Paperweights like this are an inspiration to modern glass artists. Today, some of the contemporary paperweights are as well-crafted and desirable as the old ones.

On Oct. 17, L.H. Selman in Santa Cruz, Calif., featured this rare piece in its Paperweight auction. Here are some other current values for paperweights.


Saint Louis 2000; Rondo Flora; spiraling garland of complex canes, including number 2000; includes white flower; signature; 3-3/8 inches diameter; $1,100.

Baccarat; antique; miniature wheatflower; pale-yellow with black-spotted petals; 2-1/4 inches diameter; $1,650.

Saint Louis; antique; millefiori mushroom; multi-colored; star-cut base; 2-13/16 inches diameter; $2,475.

Clichy; antique; scattered multi-colored millefiori; 3-1/8 inches; $2,475.

Paul Ysart; large butterfly motif with millefiori multi-colored wings; signature; 3-9/16 inches diameter; $3,300.

Bob Banford gingham-cut green-over-white double overlay paperweight; containing bouquet of five pink flowers; signature; 2-15/16 inches diameter; $4,125.

Mount Washington; magnum rose-colored dahlia paperweight; suggesting a flower not completely opened; 4-5/16 inches diameter; $38,500.

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