UPDATE WITH POSH VINTAGE PAPER WEIGHTS
In-the-know collectors have long held a fascination with paper weights, and for good reason. Not only are vintage paper weights unquestionably eye-catching, but they serve an oft-overlooked function as well. If you’re among those who are convinced they don’t need a paper weight to keep errant papers tidy, consider how similar to corralling objects atop a coffee table on a tray, crowning a stack of papers with a paper weight will lend instant polish. Not convinced? Try placing a vintage paperweight on top of the in-progress paperback currently resting on your nightstand. It’ll keep the cover from curling and add a bit of decorative gravitas.
Like postage stamps and baseball cards, paper weights have a collector’s circle around them. While not unpenetrable, first-time paper weight shoppers are likely to feel a bit overwhelmed by the options—not to mention the prestigious price tags some weights wear. To help, we’re spotlighting some of the different paper weights available to both collectors and design enthusiasts alike and providing some of the go-to maker names to make your search miles easier. Hunting down one-of-a-kind paper weights for sale? Start here!
Stone Paper Weights
For anyone who’s ever lusted over Carrara counters or travertine tables but gawked at the price, stone paper weights are the perfect tie-over. While they might not make the all-encompassing statement of stone furniture, stone paperweights provide the same rich color, visual movement, and lustrous texture as their larger counterparts. If you’re shopping for stone paper weights you’re likely to run across a few commonly repeated shapes, including apples, pyramids, and eggs. Stone apple paper weights likely originated as gifts intended for teachers and have been adapted by makers in not only the U.S. but Europe and beyond. Most stone apple paper weights are crafted of marble and common colors include red, green, and pale shades of pink. If you’re looking for a stone paper weight with a more abstract structure, consider narrowing your search to pyramid or egg stone paperweights. Both shapes beautifully spotlight natural stones' veining and will provide a sleek look to any desk or bookcase.
Metal Paper Weights
Those who fancy a touch of the irreverent will likely find themselves drawn to metal paper weights. Mostly consisting of different paper weights made of brass or chrome, metal paper weights were especially popular during the mid 20th century. Brass paper weights are commonly designed in the shape of animals and objects, including tennis rackets, Aspirin tablets, boxing gloves, sharks, mice, lobster and more. The wide array of brass paper weights makes them infinitely collectible, and easily giftable—chances are whatever your recipient is interested in, there’s a brass paper weight to match. For those who prefer the more reserved look of silver, consider seeking out Dansk paper weights. In the mid 20th century, Dansk produced a number of minimalist animal paper weights. Delightfully abstract, these lions, polar bears, seahorses and more, read like mini sculpture. Perhaps most appealing about brass and silver animal paper weights is that they can double as decor just about anywhere, including nurseries, kids’ bedrooms, offices, and even bathrooms (when hosting, just pop one on top of a stack of paper towels in the powder room to create an unexpected moment your guests will love).
Glass Paper Weights
In contrast to glass vases which tend to be solid colored and fairly simple, almost all glass paperweights are intricately detailed, featuring complex glass-making techniques that produce stunning results. Murano glass paper weights are the zenith, of course. Millefiori, a laborious process that consists of layering and slicing long rods of viscous colored glass to produce small “flowers” that can be puzzled together to create a unique patchwork effect, is often used for paper weights. Most often, millefiori samples are encased in clear glass domes to create one-of-a-kind paper weights, perfect for display. If millefiori is a bit too busy for you, try seeking out Murano paper weights featuring decorative swirling, as well as suspended bubble techniques.
If you prefer a less vibrant glass, vintage paper weights from makers like Baccarat and Steuben may be more your speed. French luxury brand Baccarat is famous for its clear crystal animal paperweights, including cats, butterflies, penguins, and seals. (It may also be worth noting that Baccarat is known for its millefiori paper weights as well). Those willing to shell out a bit more for clear crystal animal paper weights may want to plug the maker name “Steuben” into their search bar along with the words “paper weights for sale.” The now-defunct American glass brand produced hundreds of crystal animal paper weights during the almost 100 years it was in business from 1903 to 2011. Look for a wide range of animals, including whales, pelicans, otters, and more.
Lucite Paper Weights
Those with a penchant for postmodernism as well as surrealism will likely be drawn to Lucite paper weights. Submerging irreverent items in Lucite became particularly popular in the 1980s as Pop Art thrived. Pennies were among the most commonly suspended items—Lucite allows these relatively one-dimensional items to take on a floating appearance—as were disassembled clock parts, curiously enough (Dali enthusiasts, take note). These days, it’s common to find specimen bugs such as spiders and butterflies encased in Lucite paper weights, as well as flowers. Dandelion seed heads, which offer little contrast to the Lucite’s clear color, are a particularly favored flower for Lucite paper weights.
Lucite paperweights demand to be studied, and likewise, they’re particularly befitting on desks or coffee tables where they can be easily picked up and examined. Lucite paperweights featuring bug specimens can add a particularly playful note to libraries. Use them to allude to the taxidermy traditionally found in sitting rooms, especially if the thought of traditional taxidermy doesn’t necessarily sit well with you.