Runcorn & Widnes Weekly News - - In Business -

HIS is a tale of two auc­tions. One in the clos­ing days of last year, the other last Septem­ber. Both fea­tured glass pa­per­weights. The for­mer in­cluded the dis­per­sal of a sub­stan­tial col­lec­tion of the things, none of which was old, all of which sold for mod­est prices. The lat­ter just one sin­gle weight, which turned out to be an un­ex­pected and pricey gem.

That’s the trou­ble with pa­per­weights. Are they an­tique or mod­ern?

Nev­er­the­less, you buy one and you’re hooked. Buy a hand­ful and it be­comes an ob­ses­sion.

Stum­ble on a rare and early 19th cen­tury French ex­am­ple like the one il­lus­trated here and with suf­fi­cient knowl­edge to iden­tify it, the minia­ture mas­ter­piece could be yours.

Spot it in an auc­tion, though, where the in­ter­na­tional reach of the in­ter­net alerts col­lec­tors world­wide, and your bank bal­ance might never re­cover.

So it was at Cardiff auc­tion­eers Rogers Jones Co, where even the auc­tion­eer, Ben Rogers Jones, was left amazed.

Es­ti­mated at £800-1,200 the 4½in (11cm) di­am­e­ter, 3lb dated Bac­carat close-packed mille­fiori pa­per­weight had been found in a house clear­ance in nearby Di­nas Powys.

It was spot­ted in the sale by a pri­vate buyer from Som­er­set bid­ding on the tele­phone against an on­line un­der­bid­der from the US. Som­er­set won, se­cur­ing it for £12,000.

It was a clas­sic sale­room bid­ding bat­tle: two wealthy bid­ders each ab­so­lutely de­ter­mined to fill a gap in their re­spec­tive col­lec­tions, driv­ing the price ever up­wards. Never is the col­lec­tor so vul­ner­a­ble to mak­ing a mis­take, be­cause at that level, the abil­ity and knowl­edge to recog­nise orig­i­nal from mod­ern is vi­tal.

In this case, the clues were all there. Dated 1847 on one of the multi-coloured canes to the in­te­rior and with the ini­tial B on an­other, the bright de­sign also fea­tured an­i­mals and birds, in­clud­ing a horse and cock­erel. You just needed ed­u­cated eyes to see.

Col­lec­tors re­fer to three pe­ri­ods of Bac­carat pa­per­weight pro­duc­tion, with 1846-60 re­garded as the clas­sic pe­riod, so 1847 was a de­sir­able early date. Save for a cou­ple of small chips and a few sur­face scratches, it was also largely in ex­cel­lent shape.

La Com­pag­nie de Cristal­leries Bac­carat was one of three lead­ing French mak­ers, but a later com­peti­tor was the Cristal­lerie de St. Louis, at Louis-les-Bitche, also in the Lor­raine area of France and the Cristal­leries de Clichy, just out­side Paris.

Key to their suc­cess lay in the term mille­fiori, lit­er­ally “a thou­sand flow­ers” and the adap­ta­tion of the process by one Pi­etro Bi­gaglia. A mem­ber of an old Vene­tian fam­ily of glass artists, he is gen­er­ally cred­ited with the man­u­fac­ture of the first glass pa­per­weight in 1845. The Bac­carat mille­fiori pa­per­weight which sold at Cardiff auc­tion­eers Rogers Jones Co for £12,000 This group of ‘dumps’, made from un­used molten glass, sold for £200 This Bac­carat Pansy pa­per­weight, dated 1853, was sold for £200

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