Ysart Glass Paperweights

Ysart glass paperweight ink bottle
Above: Ysart Glass Paperweight inkwell by Paul Ysart

Identifying Paul Ysart Paperweights

Author: Kevin Holt. Editor: Angela Bowey

This article presents an overview of the variety and imagination that was a major part of Paul Ysart's gift to glass working. A detailed study of the Ysart family and their influence on Scottish glassware is set down in the book "Ysart Glass" (now sadly out of print) and also in a new (1999) book "Scottish Paperweights" by Robert G. Hall. which puts into context the whole spectrum of Scottish paperweight-making started by Paul Ysart.

An Art Form Re-Invented

From the earliest days of his inspired recreation of an almost lost art form, through to the final production nearly 50 years later, Paul was always at the forefront of technique and design expertise. His first weights were made in the 1930s and, apart from the war period from 1939 to 1946, output continued until his final retirement in 1979.

Evidence now indicates that Paul Ysart continued to make paperweights during the war period. To what extent, to what quality, and for how long within this period, is not known. But probable examples of output from that time have been included in the section of this article entitled The Main Pictures.

Paul's father, Salvador (who trained in France and Spain), had used millefiori canes in the 1920s as experimental decoration for a cup and bowl. It seems likely, therefore, that Paul learned basic cane techniques from his father. However, Salvador did not initially share Paul's enthusiasm for paperweights and Paul, being strong-minded and fascinated by French cameo weights, set about producing his own versions without any help. He re-invented 19th century methods - adding innovations of his own like using cameos from the Woolworth store to make some of his cameo moulds. The example pictured below demonstrates a quality that rivalled the best 19th century makers.

1930's vs. 19th Century

glass paperweight with cameo
Above: Paperweight with cameo sulphide inclusion

This blue patterned Cameo Sulphide in a garland of complex canes is set low over an internal black pocket. It is a good example of the quality of output that Paul achieved in the 1930s. (The photograph was taken at a slight angle to clarify the cameo relief, hence the appearance of distortion at top of the picture.)

This paperweight is 3.0 inches in diameter, 2.0 inches in height and has what is generally referred to as "dark glass" (see discussion below). It is signed with a "PY" cane as an inner element of the garland. A smooth, unpolished base with the pontil mark neatly ground out shows attention to detail. Is it any wonder that Paul Ysart weights were, at one time, attributed to " an unknown 19th century French maker"? This error was published in the first edition (1940) of "Old Glass Paperweights" by Evangeline E Bergstrom. A revised edition (1947) had removed both the mistake and the paperweight, but another was left in - an unsigned Paul Ysart millefiori butterfly given an attribution to "Bristol". These attributions were all corrected by the time "Glass Paperweights of the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum" was published in 1989.

The Rough Guide to Dating these Paperweights

glass colour spectrum
Above: Paperweights by Paul Ysart arranged with darkest glass (earliest) on left

This composite photo shows two rows of weights, photographed in the same conditions and illustrates different colours to the glass domes.

For each row the order, left to right, is oldest period to latest period. In the top row, the two middle weights show a yellow tint, as does the third from the left in the bottom row. These are regarded as 1940's period (1946 onwards). The items to the left are from the 1930s and show varying degrees of "darkness". The two on the extreme right of each row are signed with an "H" cane proving a date of 1971 or later and these have very clear glass. The remaining weights, also with good quality, clear crystal domes, are believed to be from the 50s / 60s period.

Ultraviolet Light Tests

Ultraviolet (UV) light is often used to assist the identification of fakes, reproductions and repairs of paintings, ceramics and glassware. Tests on glass paperweights show that the glass of different manufacturers can be distinguished using long wave UV light. Short wave UV light (for which protective goggles are required) has been used to confirm the results.

UV testing of paperweights is still in its early stages, and research continues to improve its accuracy and our understanding of the results. For example, a single cane in a paperweight may fluoresce in a different colour to the others, which may indicate the presence of a "borrowed" cane. On the other hand, it may just be that different colours were used in that cane, or some influence from interaction with the background colour is being observed.

Notwithstanding these caveats, Terry Johnson has tested some two hundred Ysart-style paperweights, and his preliminary results were published in Bob Hall's book "Scottish Paperweights". I have since then assisted Terry in a further session of UV testing, which included most of the weights shown in this article, and we have been able to update and correct some of the results published in that book. These results are summarised in the table below:

Factory/Period Long Wave Fluorescence Short Wave Fluorescence
Moncreiff (1930's + 1946-63) Strong Green Dusty Light Green
Caithness (1963-1970) Reddish Green Dusty Blue
Harland/Highland(1970-1979) Dusty Pink Dusty Light Green
Vasart (1946-1965) Green Dusty Green
Strathearn (1965-1980) Green Dusty Blue
Some PY Forgeries Muted Red Blue

Of course there are exceptions to these rules. The Cameo weight pictured at the beginning of this article refuses to sit comfortably within this table of results. In Long Wave UV it fluoresces Bright Green, at odds with the Strong Green of the others in the same group.

Another paperweight, used for the photo of the script "P. Ysart" signature below, fluoresces in the same Bright Green. Yet the Cameo weight has all the visual characteristics of the 1930's period, and the other weight has the yellowish glass of the 1940's period.

For Vasart glass the latest investigations using short wave UV show two separate groupings: those that fluoresce Green (possibly pre-1956) and those that fluoresce Dusty Blue (perhaps 1956 onwards).


signature on paperweight
Above: Paul Ysart signature

Here is an enlargement of a script signature by Paul Ysart, applied to a paperweight base. There are a number of weights signed in this way and it is thought that Paul did this for friends and contacts rather than as his normal form of identification.

signature on paperweight
Above: Signature canes used by Paul Ysart

The PY cane was included in many weights throughout Paul's career. From 1955, when Paul Jokelson became the US distributor, weights for the American market are said to have always contained a PY cane. For the home market in the UK, weights were either unsigned or, for the Harland / Highland works (1971 onwards), usually had an "H" cane.

Paper Labels

Some of Paul's weights have paper labels helping identification and dating. During his years in the Moncrieff company, Monart paper labels, with the words "Moncrieff Scotland" and "Monart Glass" were used on some weights. The three Monart labels shown here are all of the same general design but there were other variations. A label reading "Monart Ware" was the first version (in the 1930s) and assuming that labels were added to some of Paul's weights in that period, the Monart Ware version may possibly be found on some early Paul Ysart paperweights.

Fake labels have been found on Monart glass and there could conceivably be some on paperweights. These are said to have a shorter sweep of the extension of the "M", finishing before the end of the word "Glass", and are reported as bright gold in colour.

paperweight labels
Above: Labels sometimes found on Paul Ysart weights

A paper label affixed to a flat base inevitably suffers wear and tear affecting its condition and colour. The Monart label on the left has clearly seen better days. However, it does have a redeeming feature - the legend "P/W No 22" is very unusual. This type of numbering for paperweights is mentioned in the book, "Ysart Glass". Any other information on numbered paperweight labels of this type, would be welcomed.

Any weight with a genuine Monart label (affixed at the time of making) is pre-1963/4. Paul joined Caithness Glass in a Technical / Training capacity during 1963. It is reported that during this period, which lasted until 1970, he made weights in his own time at weekends. Post-Monart labels were of the other forms shown. The small oblong label showing "PY Made in Scotland" often becomes thin and washed out and the colour of the paperweight shines through. The circular, blue label shows a more elegant style of "PY" and "Made in Scotland" is printed in very small font at the bottom of the label. The "CG" label, for Caithness Glass, is attached to the base of a confirmed weight made during Paul's Caithness period.

Monart labels are about 1.25 inches in diameter.


Yes, it's that word again: fake. Just like other high-quality glassware (and Monart labels) fake Paul Ysart weights have been made. Evidence indicates a series of fakes having a PY cane, but the quality of these weights falls short of what would be expected of genuine articles. The generally accepted way of spotting one of these fakes is to examine the PY cane - most copies have the "Y" slipped down out of alignment. Information suggests that this "slipped" signature may have come from a batch of stolen Paul Ysart canes!

Another possible fake PY cane is discussed in the book, "The Dictionary of Paperweight Signature Canes" by Andrew Dohan. This second type is stated to be better made, without the slipped Y, but with small PY letters in relation to the size of the cane and has 20 "ribs" to the outer green cog formation.

fake PY canes
Above: Fake PY canes

This image shows three fake PY canes. The upper picture shows a cane from a circa 1980s period fake The one on the lower right is also believed to be from that period. The one at the lower left is from a weight purchased in the latter part of 2000. The example in the upper picture is set in the base of the weight whereas the other two are included in the main design.

The ones at the upper and lower right positions show examples of the"dropped Y" cane. The one at the lower left shows the version with level letters but these appear to be quite small in relation to the size of the cane. In all cases, there are 20 outer ribs to the canes and the top right section of the ribbing shows the same relative "distortions".

Although not entirely clear from this image, in all cases, the "P" is an orange colour and the "Y" is pink. This colouring seems to be consistent in all of the identified fake canes. Genuine PY canes have both letters in pink - albeit perhaps with a different shade of pink over the many years.

Collectors should also be aware that Ysart-style paperweights were made by the rival company, Vasart Glass, by other members of the Ysart family and their co-workers. Canes that are identified as Vasart production were not used by Paul Ysart.

From study of various Paul Ysart and Vasart/Salvador Ysart weights, it is clear that canes of a similar structure and colouring have sometimes been used by both Paul and the other members of the family. Whether some of these canes are truly exact matches, indicating a definite sharing (or borrowing?) of canes, is not certain. However, it does seem plausible that canes made during the 1930s period could have been used by both Salvador and Paul - even though there was a known difficulty between them. If this idea is correct, then it may also be true that such canes continued to be used by both, at least for a short time, after the family split and "Ysart Brothers Glass" (Vasart) was formed.

If you are doubtful about an Ysart-style paperweight, you could always post a message and picture to our Glass Club Message Board (click here) and we'll do our best to help check it out.

A Summary of Styles

What follows is a small sample, from private collections, of the wide range of Paul Ysart weights. These illustrate basic design features used in many variations. They cover: Millefiori canes, filigree twists and lampwork; Star patterns, Concentric rings, Close Packed (cluster of many canes), Garlands, Baskets, Jasper (Splattered) Grounds, Plain Coloured Grounds, Scrambled (random chips, part canes etc), Cameo Sulphides [see image at beginning of article], 2-dimensional Dragonflies / Butterflies / Fish, 2-dimensional Flowers / Bouquets, controlled use of air bubbles, Crowns (a swirl of mixed filigree twists usually with a top air bubble) and 3-dimensional Snakes/Lizards/Salamanders/Fish/Parrots/Mice and Ducks.

Paul Ysart used the 19th century techinque of including filigree twists as part of the design. But he used them amongst concentric millifiori rings, oriented with the direction of the ring, or set as radial elements giving the effect of distinct sections. In many cases, an obvious spoke pattern is achieved. This concept was also used by Salvador and Paul's brothers in Vasart paperweights. Later, when Strathearn Glass was formed out of the former Vasart company, the spoke pattern remained for standard production items. Its use was carried on by Strathearn Glass workers when, with Stuart Drysdale, they started the Perthshire Paperweights company. Such was the impact of Paul's original idea.

The Main Pictures

PY war period weights
(composite photo constructed from photos of original photos)

The above image shows four early Paul Ysart weights. The original photos were kindly provided by Mr Don Eckel, who had asked Paul Ysart about these weights. It was confirmed that they were made during the war period, when good colour was difficult to obtain. It is clear that the quality of the one at the top left is below Paul Ysart's usual standard. Also, the one at the lower left shows quite simplistic canes. Sizes of the actual paperweights are not known.

Regardless of the variable quality of all or parts of the above weights, they all demonstrate an unusual feature.

At top left, the butterfly has "rectangular" wings with a single roundel over a two-banded colouring in each wing. At top right, the use of short lengths of cane and a torsade with applied coloured spots are not often seen. However, a similar design was seen by the author in a weight within the reserve collection of Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Also, the concepts of short cane lengths and spotted garlands are known in a few other items.

The picture at the lower left shows what is likely to be a very large paperweight. There are three butterflies each with a torsade garland and the whole enclosed in an outer garland of canes. In early single-butterfly weights usual sizes vary between, say, 2.5 inch and just under 4 inch diameter, but with the design shown, the weight probably has a diameter of over 4.5 inches.

At the lower right is a torsaded basket of flowers. A torsade of almost identical structure is known in a few Sulphide weights. The basket of flowers has been seen in other weights, but without the torsade. These baskets of flowers are actually painted ceramics and the colours of the flowers vary across the weights.

PY Footed Badge weight Left: A probable 1930s / 1940s period "badge weight". Several ofthese are known with most being a standard paperweight containing a military cap badge set on a spattered ground.

In this example the weight is set on a pedestal foot. This design results in not only a pontil mark to the rear (underside) of the paperweight portion, but also a similar mark to the top (edge) of the dome. The mark to to the top shows that after the basic weight was completed it was picked up with an iron attached to its side in order to add and form the stem and foot.

This item is 4.25 inches high and has a dome diameter of just under 3 inches. The badge has the name "The Cambridgeshire Regt".

UV tests indicate Moncrieff factory.

Right: An early (1930s) star pattern composed of groups of complex canes with another complex cane between each point.

The size is 2.8 inches in diameter and 2.4 inches high. It has a flat, polished base.

The canes are set half way up the profile - higher than is normally seen.

There is no signature but the canes match signed Paul Ysart examples. UV tests indicate the Moncrieff factory.
paperweight with star design

magnum paperweight Left: A Magnum paperweight [about 3.5 inches or larger] with concentric millefiori and filigree twists, on a pink cushion.

This one is 3.75 inches in diameter and 2.6 inches high. The dome is yellowish suggesting the 1940s period.

It has a smooth base with a smoothly ground out pontil mark.

There is a tiny PY cane between two canes top centre in the third row from the outside (hard to spot). UV tests indicate Moncrieff factory.

Right: A concentric millefiori paperweight with radial filigree twists and a close-packed cluster as central feature. The filigree twists have gold aventurine centres. Set on green and white jasper cushion.
The size is 3.0 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches high.

The greyish glass indicates 1930s period. There is a slightly indented base with a rough pontil scar. Unsigned, but canes match signed examples and UV tests indicate Moncrieff factory.
concentric pattern on paperweight

Close pack centres are frequently seen and are often the dominant feature. In the example shown above, the colours and complex structure combine to lessen the impact of the central cluster.

bubbled spoke weight This is a "Spoke" pattern but with unusual features. A bubble is set above the outer end of each colour twist. There is only a single (outer) row of canes between the spokes. Another unusual feature of this particular weight is the shade of green used for the ground.

This piece was sold with a probable "Vasart" attribution, but other examples, cane matching and UV tests have shown it to be by Paul Ysart, and probably 1930s period.

3.1 inch diameter, 2.25 inch high

dragonfly paperweight Left: 2-dimensional dragonfly - gold aventurine body with yellow spots, red aventurine head with orange eyes, green wings formed from flattened and stretched canes. Garland of spaced complex canes and two central cog canes. All set into a pink ground.

2.75 inches in diameter and 2.0 inches high, it is from the 1940s period, judging by the slight yellowish tinge to the dome. Signed with PY complex cane in the garland. The flat, polished base has a Monart label, and this is the one with the "P/W No. 22" referred to earlier. UV tests indicate the Moncrieff factory.

Right: A millefiori inkwell. These were popular with 19th and early 20th century English glass-makers. The Paul Ysart versions are generally much better quality than others from the time.

The multitude of canes are set on a white ground. It is 5.25 inches overall in height, and 3.25 inches wide at the base. There is a yellowish tint which suggests the 1940s period. The dating is assisted by a Monart label and script signature "P. Ysart 1946" on the flat, polished base.

The inscribed date is very unusual. This item once belonged to Mr Cyril Manley, well-known in glass circles as author and collector. It is believed that Paul Ysart signed this inkwell at the time of a visit from Mr Manley, but the exact date of this visit is unknown. UV tests indicate the Moncrieff factory.
paperweight inkwell

flower paperweight Left: 2-dimensional lampwork bouquet with stem and leaves and six small blooms floating over a green and white jasper ground. 2.8 inch diameter, 2.4 inch height. Clear crystal glass - 1950s onwards. Ysart made bouquet weights from 1930s onwards, but not with quite the same quality as this one.

There is a PY cane in the centre of the main blue flower, and the weight has a flat polished base. The jasper ground is another common feature of Paul Ysart weights and they come in a variety of colours. UV tests indicate the Caithness factory.

Right: 2-dimensional lampwork paperweight with a single flower whose stem and petals float in a basket of white filigree twists. There are drawn red and green canes interspersed with the filigree.

It is 2.75 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches high, made of clear crystal glass - which indicates the 1950s onwards. There is a smooth base with a blackened pontil scar.

You can just see the PY cane between stem and the bottom leaf. UV tests indicate the Caithness factory.
paperweight with flower

This flower weight is a really attractive design and very well executed. Filigree baskets feature in many Paul Ysart weights and the central subject is often a single flower with or without stem and leaves. Other central features are: bouquets, fish, butterflies and dragonflies.

fish paperweight Left: 2-dimensional lampwork pink fish in a garland of blue and pink complex canes all set in a green cushion ground.

It is 2.8 inches in diameter and 2.0 inches high. Made of clear crystal glass - indicating the 1950s onwards. It has a flat polished base.

There is a PY cane nestling between two garland canes (bottom of picture, just above and between the two blue canes). UV tests indicate the Moncrieff factory.

Below right: A 2-dimensional butterfly hovering in a basket of pint and white filigree. The butterfly has an orange body, green aventurine head and purple antennae, with wings formed from flattened complex canes.

It is 2.75 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches high, and has a smooth base with a central indentation.

This butterfly weight has a PY cane "hovering" with the butterfly. It is made from clear crystal glass - suggesting the 1950s onwards, but its superb quality suggests 1960s or later. Perhaps not clear in this photo, but a single air bubble is set at the top, inner join of every filigree element and this feature suggests a 1970s date. UV tests indicate this weight was made in the Harland/Highland period (1970-1979).

butterfly paperweight

The perfection of the basket and the magnification of the dome give an illusion of great depth to this weight. Butterfly weights are one of the more common types and were made throughout Paul Ysart's long career. Sometimes with millefiori wings and sometimes with lampwork, in baskets and on coloured grounds, with and without garlands. A Paul Ysart butterfly always has antennae constructed from two separate pieces of glass (unless somebody knows otherwise?). Other makers use this same style but some prefer to simply bend a single strand across the top of the head of the insect.

snake paperweight Left: a superb example of a 3-dimensional subject, rivalling 19th century equivalents. This weight has two snakes, looking very pleased with each other, as they should given the difficulty in setting their raised heads whilst avoiding trapped air bubbles. It has a low, conical, pedestal foot in dark purple, and a Monart-style pontil. Overall size is 2.4" high and 4.0" diameter. UV tests indicate the Caithness period. 3-dimensional subjects are usually set low in the paperweight, and magnification distortion shows around the outer edge; but such weights are highly prized and the most expensive to acquire.
Right: a CROWN paperweight. Paul Ysart Crown weights are a simple but delightful arrangement of mixed filigree twists arranged in a spiral pattern filling the dome and with a central air bubble at the top. This example has a substantial depth of clear glass surrounding the main crown element. In many cases, the Crown design fills the whole of the dome. This one is 2.8" high and 2.2" wide. The base has a polished pontil mark, and UV testing indicates the Caithness period.
crown paperweight
harlequin paperweight Left: A Harlequin design paperweight, with air bubbles over hollows in a scrambled cane-and-twists ground. It is 2.5 inches in diameter and 2.25 inches high, with a flat polished base.

There is an H cane in the underside of the orange ground - indicating the 1970s. UV test indicates the Harland/Highland factory.

These were one of the basic characteristics of Harland Glassworks and lots of these harlequin weights were made.
Right: A Fountain design, consisting of internal loops of plain and twisted canes with air bubbles - one bubble in the centre of the loops and one on each of the downward arms. It is set in a thin coloured ground.

This example has an ovoid shape, 2.5 inches in diameter and 3.25 inches high. Others can be found with more rounded profiles. In fact, early examples from the 1930s or 1940s have normal, spherical domes. It has a flat polished base.

There is an H cane in the underside of the light purple ground - indicating the 1970s. UV tests indicate the Harland/Highland factory. Fountains were also one of the basic items produced by Harland Glassworks and another very effective, simple design allowing high production.
fountain paperweight

And Finally ...

With a degree of good fortune, Paul Ysart weights can still be found at quite low prices. But this is not the rule! Whenever a known collection comes to auction, estimates and subsequent hammer prices tend to reflect the popularity of these important pieces of 20th century Scottish glass history.

As with any other collectible, actual price depends on condition, type, rarity, period, and even "the need to own it". The range of weights and their individual features makes it almost impossible to state definitive prices or values. However, in 1999, typical UK costs ranged from £100 (US $160) for Harlequins and Fountains up to £1,200 (US $1,920) for 3D pieces. Also, signed items tend to be up to twice the amount of unsigned equivalents.

Perhaps the few weights pictured and described in this article will help identify items in your possession or that you spot in your travels. Maybe some of you can shed further light on the facts of Paul Ysart's paperweight history. You may even have an unsigned weight for which a definite attribution can be proved - perhaps with documentary evidence. Any such information would be gratefully received - please email us or put a message on our Glass Message Board.

If you are looking for Ysart glass, you can usually find items on offer on ebay. Click Ysart Glass. Oe if you would like to see the paperweights currently listed on ebay - click Paperweights

Main References:

Additional References:

If you have enjoyed this article, you will probably enjoy the following books. Click on the book cover to read more:

Paul Ysart paperweights 2009 Ysart Glass Pirelli Glass Book 2016 Scottish  paperweights book 1999 British Glass Book 2 Scotlands Glass 2009 GB Paperweights book 2007 World Paperweights book 2001 Brackel Paperweights book 2000 Perthshire paperweights 1997 All About Paperweights book 1992 Encyclopedia of Caithness Paperweights, Nowson 2011

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