Q. This solid piece of glass with a slight depression in the neck is signed by Robert L. Hamon and was given to me by my employer, who advised me to "take care of it." The piece is 10 inches tall. Any information you can give me -- especially its value -- would be appreciated.
A. We agree with your boss -- take care of this piece. It is very beautiful and someday may be very valuable.
Looking at the photograph, we feel that this piece should be termed a "paperweight vase." Hamon was famous for his paperweights and this piece combines the paperweight function with the utility of being a vase.
The classical period for glass paperweights began in France about 1845 and their popularity continued through the 1860s. The big three manufacturers in France were Baccarat, Clincy and St. Louis, and in America, the big two were the New England Glass Co. and the Boston and Sandwich Co.
Several companies in England also made handcrafted paperweights, including George Bacchus and Son, and Islington Glass Works. Nineteenth-century paperweights of some note were also made in Venice, on the Italian island of Murano and in Bohemia.
These came in a variety of forms, of which we will mention just three.
First, there is the millefiori weight ("millefiori" is Italian for "thousand flowers"), which are made by creating canes from clusters of various colored rods of glass. The glass canes are cut into thin pieces resembling flower heads, then assembled in patterns and encased in a dome-shaped mass of glass.
Second, there is the lampwork paperweight, which is made by crafting images of flowers, fruit, butterflies or animals from glass using a "lamp" or Bunsen burner. These, too, are incorporated into a pleasing, artistic design inside a glass dome.
Finally, there are sulphide paperweights, which have a cameolike plaque (often a portrait) made of a special ceramic material encased in the glass. There are also swirl paperweights, crown paperweights (made from ribbons of glass) and advertising paperweights (among others).
Paperweights became popular once again in the mid-20th century, and many artists such as Paul Stankard, Charles Kaziun, Paul Ysart, Jim D'Onofrio and Chris Buzzini, plus manufacturers such as Lundberg Studios, Orient & Flume, Charles Lotton, and Correia Glass, expanded and perfected the art form.
Hamon Glass is located in Scott Depot, W.Va., and was founded by Robert L. Hamon's father, O.B. Hamon. Robert Hamon started blowing glass at the age of 10, and in the 1960s he brought his father's company into the forefront of contemporary American art-glass manufacturing with his paperweights and marbles.
The piece in today's question is a prime example of Hamon's work, and its size and intricacy make it something of a rarity. However, since Hamon's death in 2003, the secondary market has been trying to establish the value of his work to collectors.
We checked the auction market and found Hamon paperweights selling for as low as $40 and as high as around $200. In the long run, we think this is much too low a price for a spectacular Hamon paperweight vase such as this one and -- in our opinion -- it will greatly increase over time.
• Contact Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson at Treasures in Your Attic, P.O. Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928.