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James Constantine Kontes was born on April 28, 1919 in Vineland, New Jersey, the second of four children. Two years after Jim was born to August “Gus” and Koula Kontes, another glassmaker, Nontas Constantine Kontes, entered the world on February 5, 1921. Both have lived in this area their whole lives except for the years spent in the service during World War II. In 1936 Jim started working with glass at a small factory in which his father was a silent partner. In 1943, shortly before joining the military, he and his younger brother Nontas started Kontes Glass Company, a firm which specialized in blowing scientific glass. In the early 1980s they sold most of the glass business, keeping HS Martin Industrial Glass, which they continued to run.
After working with glass for almost forty years, in 1975, he and Nontas started making paperweights as a hobby. At that time they set up a small personal studio in a corner of their factory. Jim had collected weights, and states that the fine work of Charles Kaziun was the inspiration for him to take this new challenge. They have never made many weights in any given year. Not needing sales of their weights to provide an income, most of their weights have been given to friends, or donated to a museum or charity auction they wish to support.
Jim and Nontas work independently, though each is there to help the other encase their designs. They have collaborated on a few weights over the years. In this author’s opinion, the weights made by Jim Kontes are among the best weights ever made in the classic French style. Jim has a great eye for color, a sense of whimsey, and the ability to encase three-dimensional motifs which the makers from the classic period could only dream about. Nontas has made even fewer weights that James over the years. Anyone fortunate enough to own one either of the Kontes’ rare weights has a real treasure.
Excerpted from The Dictionary of Glass Paperweights, Paul H. Dunlop, Papier Presse 2009.
Due to the small number of weights the Kontes brothers have made over the years and their great desirability it is highly unlikely we will ever have one long enough to post on this website. If you would like to add one of their incredible weights to your collection please let us know.
call (800)227-1996 10AM till 10PM EST to put a Kontes paperweight on your want list