During the Middle Ages, the French created unsurpassed stained glass windows, and from the late seventeenth century they were the leading mirror makers of Europe; but, for vessels, glass was considered unworthy of serious artistic treatment.
A strict customs barrier imposed in 1830 encouraged the development of French art glass. From 1830 to 1870 most of the glass production was experimental in character with attempts to emulate the then-popular coloured Venetian and Bohemian glass.
A main product of this period was the paperweight with inlaid colour patterns. Although originated in Venice, this form was perfected at the St Louis glassworks. There were soon many imitators but few could equal St Louis and the nearby Baccarat and Clichy glassworks.
From 1870, new styles were inspired by the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and, from 1890, culminated in the Art Nouveau works of Gallé and Lalique.