In the mid-19th century, as paper became cheaper and mail services improved, writing letters became a popular pastime. Glassmakers produced thousands of brilliantly colored weights to hold down papers on writers' desks. The earliest datable paperweights were made in Italy in 1845. Soon afterwards, paperweights were manufactured in other parts of Europe and in the United States. This example, the famous "Gingham" weight was made at the Compagnie des Cristalleries de Saint-Louis, France, c. 1845-55. The famous Saint Louis “Gingham” overlay, the only example of its kind known to exist, is a masterpiece from the classical period of French paperweight making. It was probably produced as a prestige piece, designed to demonstrate the skills of the craftsmen, rather than as a commercial work. This weight features a tall bouquet and a double overlay cut in a pattern resembling a gingham fabric. The double overlay was likely achieved by gathering the two overlay colors of glass together and then blowing a bubble. This was folded over the colorless core with the bouquet, enclosing the piece. When the object had been annealed, the opaque overlay colors were cut away with a small wheel to produce the gingham pattern latticework. The weight was then reheated and encased in a layer of colorless glass.