ABC Television – Collectors

Fine quality glass paperweights

Bruce McLeod believes it was his destiny to collect beautiful things. For sixty years, as an antique dealer, Bruce has been collecting fine quality glass paperweights in a small way for at least fifty of those years.

Interestingly enough collectors in the early days wanted paperweights made by Murano, but nowadays discerning collectors are much more attracted to the French and Scottish-designed weights that have been signed by the designer. Although the antique weights are highly sought after by collectors, Bruce has a strong interest in the contemporary ones as well which were made from 1950 to the present time. He believes a new thing well made is better than a badly-designed older thing.

Paperweights were first made in France in the early 1840s and the classic weights were made up until the 1860s. These early paperweights were made in three French factories: Baccarat, Clichy and St Louis. The latter-made weights are Bruce’s passion; they’re the ‘glass of kings’.

The two main types of paperweight are millefiori and lampwork. Millefiori means ‘thousand flowers’ and these paperweights contain thin cross-sections of cylindrical composite canes made from coloured rods which usually resemble little flowers. They are more patterned than the realistic, but stylised lampwork weights. The latter are more composition or ‘landscape’ based and may contain flowers, fruit or animals. The interior is made by shaping and working coloured glass using a Bunsen burner and assembling them into a composition and subsequently surrounded by glass.

Within the millefiori of some paperweights are some treasures. With a magnifying glass there could be the signs of the zodiac.

Bruce also has paperweights called sulphides. They are very beautiful in their simple design and contain non-glazed porcelain cameo-like portraits set in glass. Some are faceted, while others have incised coloured bases that reflect light giving the portrait an ethereal presence. Other sulphides contain whole, but tiny sculptures.

Bruce loves the Scottish-made paperweights made by Strathearn Glass which was founded in 1963, from Scottish granite. The weights are actually hollow, but are heavy. Selkirk, founded in 1977, is another Scottish glass factory. It produced a wide range of paperweights including abstract, lampwork and millefiori. The weights that Bruce has were inspired by dancing around the maypole.

Whitefriars was a famous English glass factory which made high quality paperweights amongst other glass products. Bruce has a paperweight that has beautiful colour combinations and the traditional Whitefriars groove around the base of the weight.

Bruce’s collection of paperweights only exists because they are beautiful. Studying the weights at close hand confirms why Bruce’s passion hasn’t waned over the years. The truly exquisite weights perfectly reflect the skill of their makers.

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