The Caithness story began in 1961 and has steadily grown into what is now the world’s leading producer of glass paperweights with a collection of more than 2,500 designs. Each Caithness paperweight is a unique work of art, designed by a member of our dedicated design team and hand-crafted to the highest standards by the skilled makers in our Crieff Studio. The Caithness paperweight output has developed a following among collectors around the world and has brought the company from its small beginnings to its current status.
In the early days
When the company was founded in 1961 by Robin Sinclair, it only made bowls, vases and drinking glasses. It was Paul Ysart who bought with him a love of paperweights when we joined the company a year later. His designs were unique to him, paving the way for a successful future. It wasn’t until Colin Terris joined as Head of the new Design and Engraving Studio in 1968, that he recognised the potential for producing paperweights at factory scale. After this, the Caithness brand really took off, acquiring a Royal Warrant as a recognised supplier of glass to the Queen Mother. In 1969 Colin went on to launch the first set of modern paperweights, The Planets, each in a limited edition of 500. That same year, a new factory was opened in Oban.
The 1970’s & 1980’s
1974 was the year of the first millefiori and lampwork paperweights and in the same year, Helen Macdonald joined the company as a trainee glass engraver in Wick. She went on to design her first paperweight, Regal Iris. In 1976 Martin Campbell joined the team in Oban and Allan Scott was appointed to specialise in lampwork in 1983. A third factory was opened in Perth in 1979 and became the headquarters of Caithness Glass featuring a visitor centre, the museum of paperweights and the glass factory. Helen MacDonald was transferred to the new factory and worked on many prestigious pieces including items for the royal family.
As the company progressed through the seventies, the number of paperweight enthusiasts was growing, leading Colin to launch the Caithness Collectors Society in 1976 as somewhere where they could share in the secrets of the art of glassmaking and marvel at the delights of specially designed paperweights.
As the business became more successful, steps were taken to diversify its offering and in 1992, new glassworks and visitor centres were opened in both Wick and Oban.
By this time, the team had substantially grown with 44 people now involved in the paperweight production process. In 1995, the company centralised its paperweight production in Perth. The 1990’s also saw Colin Terris made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in recognition of his contribution to British Glass and the company employed Scott Sinclair, Martin Murray and Fraser Munro who began working in the Caithness Factory when he was just 16 years old.
Over the next two decades, Caithness saw a substantial change when the company was purchased by Dartington Crystal (Torrington) Ltd and the whole business moved to Crieff as part of the Crieff Visitor Centre. In 2002, Calum McDougall joined Caithness, specialising in millefiori and lampwork. Since the company’s 50th anniversary in 2011, it has seen Edinburgh University bursary student: Gemma Leamy produce her first collection for Caithness.