YsartNews - Special Issue October 1989
Issued by The Monart & Vasart Collectors Club
and The Cambridge Paperweight Circle
Identification of Fakes
The Future of Modern Paperweight Collecting
Letter from John Deacons, Paperweight maker
Ysart Glass book
Large quantities of paperweights have been appearing on the market since November 1987 supposedly made by paperweight artists Paul Ysart and John Deacons. Both types contain the signature cane of PY and J respectively. Most of them are now known to be fakes.
During 1988 many paperweight collectors began to become alarmed at the large quantity of Paul Ysart paperweights that were appearing on the market, many being below the usually expected high standard of his work. Initially it was assumed that these weights were seconds or unissued remnants from Paul Ysart‘s studio in Wick. However Paul maintains that he never sold seconds and always destroyed them. Rumours that a quantity of PY weights and canes were stolen from Caithness Glass were followed up; this proved another red herring as all the weights stolen had been quickly recovered and the culprit prosecuted.
The detective work by several members of the Cambridge Paperweight Circle and the Monart & Vasart Collectors Club has accumulated a lot of largely circumstantial evidence as to their source, but unfortunately no definite proof against the persons that actually made the fakes. Liaison with the Ysart family has established that the PY cane being used is definitely not genuine and fortunately is easily recognised. Perhaps the biggest shock was the discovery that many of the millefiori canes being used in these weights were genuine Ysart canes, but not by Paul Ysart! A photograph of Vasart canes distributed by the Monart & Vasart Collectors Club some time ago provided the first match. This was confirmed when a collector who had bought a large quantity of the fakes visited Stuart Drysdale of Perthshire Paperweights, who showed her a box of Vasart canes in which she found matches with her fakes. He told her that a few boxes of these canes had travelled from the Vasart works to Strathearn and then on to Perthshire Paperweights. He stated that many paperweight makers had access to these canes over the years.
Collectors all over the country have been making statements to police in Scotland and England. Perth Police have made some investigations into the possible manufacturers but unfortunately have found no evidence to date. Rumours have been circulating that John Deacons, who had made the original Jay weights, was responsible for the fakes. While he had been included in the police investigation, John Deacons was completely exonerated by it. In any case John Deacons does not have the facilities to have made the quantity of weights produced in the time period over which they have been appearing.
It is estimated that around 1,000 fake weights with a PY cane were made and three or more times as many with a J cane. With Paul Ysart weights changing hands from £200 each, the group responsible have made a small fortune from the fake PY weights alone: adding to that the vast quantity of J weights, the crooks must be living in good style. That these two ranges of weights were produced by the same people is indisputable, as similar styles and techniques, matching ground colours, identical shaping and finishing and identical canes appear in both types.
A large proportion of the PY weights that have appeared in auction during 1988 and early 1989 were unfortunately the fakes. So good were many of the earliest production that no one suspected anything amiss until the high volume continued. Also the appearance of weights with identical designs but containing either a J or a PY cane confirmed the suspicions that the weights were not genuine. Prior to 1987 a PY signed weight was a rarity in this country and not very common in the United States of America, where the majority of the original genuine PY weights had been distributed. Many English collectors had to satisfy themselves with tracking down and identifying unsigned examples.
A good collection of genuine Paul Ysart weights is held at the Perth Art Gallery and Museum: most of the unsigned Monart weights on display are in fact by Paul Ysart.
Collectors are also invited to contact the Cambridge Paperweight Circle and the Monart and Vasart Collectors Club for assistance in identification of weights in their collections.
Identification of the fakes
The easiest method to identify the weights is from the PY cane itself as shown below.
Figure 1 The top illustration is a genuine PY cane, the lower one being that found in the fakes.
The base has been ground giving a shallow depression with easily visible wheel lines. However it is likely that the unscrupulous will grind the bases flat and polish them in the future, in which case the only clue left will be the signature cane and experience. The genuine weights tend to have a high dome and always make superb use of the refractive qualities of the glass to give a good magnification effect. The fakes are much lower and while some have a reasonable magnification it is apparent from studying many of these that this was chance rather than intentional. Frequently the magnification is so poor that the weight would never have passed the quality control of any of the Scottish manufacturers. While the characteristics above apply equally to the J weight fakes the signature cane is not so easily identified; however fish are not as common in the original J weights as they are in the fake J weights. Reference to the fake PY weights will help to identify the fake John Deacons weights.
The Future of Modern Paperweight Collecting
Without doubt the appearance and uncovering of these fakes will have an impact on the paperweight market. Never before has the paperweight collector had to deal with outright fakes. But all fields of collecting have had to learn to deal with fakes and the usual effect is for prices to be depressed for a year or so until the collectors have learnt the techniques of identification. Paperweight collectors are more fortunate than many in having well organised societies in almost every country that can quickly relay important information to their members. These fake weights can only add excitement and a challenge to collectors and ownership of an example could almost be thought of as an important part of a collection. Unfortunately many collectors will have had to pay a very high price for their lesson to date. It is still possible to uncover the makers if the victims that have not yet reported their purchases get in touch with full information on the source of their purchase. Addresses to write to are given at the end of this newsletter.
Ysartnews Issue 4
The March 1988 issue of the Monart and Vasart Collectors Club newsletter contained an article on Paul Ysart Paperweights by Alison Jane Clarke written before the fakes appeared. But the identification guide to Paul Ysart weights makes references to the first batches of fakes in the last three lines on page 8 and the first eleven lines on page 9. Written in February 1988, it shows how early the fakes were beginning to cause puzzles. The front cover photograph and the upper photograph on the rear cover are also of fakes. All the remaining photographs were correctly attributed.
John Deacons comment, 18th, October 1989
Since ‘J’ Glass closed my interest in quality paperweights has virtually ceased. The few better quality weights I make are for collectors who phone or visit me. My main market is in the cheaper millefiori paperweights which I make in quantity. The workshop which I operate at present gives me a reasonable income producing paperweights which do not give production problems. I intend to continue this type of operation, gradually improving equipment etc. and perhaps producing a few more ‘specials’. However I shall never re-enter the cut-throat business in which ‘J’ Glass foundered.
Ladymill House, Dallerie, Crieff, Perthshire, PH7 4JH.
A book containing the most detailed history of the Ysart family and their glass to date was published in November 1990. Sixty-four full colour pages illustrate almost every variation in colour and decoration of Monart Glass. Over sixty Paul Ysart paperweights are included, illustrating many of his designs, in the most comprehensive collection of his work ever published. A selection of fake weights have been included. All of the photographs have been specially commissioned for this book, giving an unrivalled collection of comparative photographs.
Articles based mostly on original research deal separately with Monart, Paul Ysart and Vasart and are written by Ian Turner, Alison Clarke and Frank Andrews. Brian Blench, Keeper of Decorative Arts at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow and Secretary of the Scottish Glass Society, has written the Introduction for the book. Now out of print. 3000 copies were produced. Link to Errata. Link to updated price guide.
Addresses to write to
The Secretary, Cambridge Paperweight Circle.
See links page for current contact details
This special newsletter is being sent to paperweight collectors and auction houses all over the world. Any society that has paperweight collectors as members is invited to write to the publishers requesting sufficient copies for their membership. In the event of a shortage of copies an original will be sent for reproduction by the requesting society.
Typeset and Published by Volo Press Limited, (Ceased trading 1992)
Copyright. ©1989 Volo Press Ltd. ©2001 & ©2005 Frank Andrews
The contents of this special newsletter may be freely used in any other form, provided that a credit is included to the Cambridge Paperweight Circle and Frank Andrews.