Nowadays, the term “Tiffany Lamp” is a more generic term, describing any stained glass lamp, but how do you know if your lamp is a genuine Tiffany Lamp, made by Tiffany Studios? It’s not always easy.
Tiffany Studios, established by Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany, owner of Tiffany & Co. (renowned for jewelry, fine silver and luxury goods), produced Tiffany Lamps from the 1890’s through the 1930’s, when Louis C. Tiffany died. These lamps are very rare and valuable, ranging anywhere from $3,500 to over $2 million dollars, with a gallery in New York (Macklowe Gallery) recently placing the price tag of $3.5 million dollars on a lamp in their collection.
These lamps were all custom-made, with no two exactly alike. The lamps that demand a higher price tag tend to be the lamps that feature an array of vibrant colors and ornate patterns, especially those with intricate floral designs. The simpler the lines and patterns, the less the lamp is worth. This is very much in part because the more complicated the patterns and colors were, the many more hours of work it took to complete.
Although this article can help you come closer to a definitive answer as to whether or not you have an authentic Tiffany Lamp, you will still need to take your lamp to an expert, as there are many forgeries out there that can even give the most educated antique expert a run for their money so-to-speak.
So what can you do to help determine if you should take your lamp to an expert? Here are some easy things to look for:
- Look closely at the shade. An original Tiffany Lamp will most likely have suffered at the very least a few fractures or cracks and if you tap the shade, you should hear the glass rattle. If each pane of glass is securely in place and there are no noticeable cracks, although not impossible, it is pretty safe to say that you do not have an original Tiffany.
- Tiffany Lamps should almost always have a base that is stamped. Often the shade is also stamped and numbered. The stamp should read: TIFFANY STUDIOS in all caps and in a very basic font. If the font has any sort of flourish, like the small lines that come off of the sides of the horizontal line of the “T”, this is a forgery. This is also true if the lamp is stamped “Tiffany & Co.” as there were no lamps produced under this name.
- Inspect the base. Most all Tiffany Lamp bases were made from bronze and because of the high price of bronze, the bases were made hollow with a lead ring in the base added for extra support. The bronze base will most likely also have experienced some color change over the years, namely a patina, but remember that this look is something that counterfeiters can easily reproduce. In addition, the on/off switch will most likely be a turnable paddle design or a small pull chain.
- Light the lamp and look at the glass. One of the appealing qualities of an original Tiffany is the glass quality and type. The colors of the glass should appear as different colors when the lamp is turned on. If you have a legitimate Tiffany Lamp, you should also notice that there will be random panes of glass on your lamp that have specs of different colors on them. This is called confetti glass.
More Tips: If you are thinking of buying a lamp because you suspect it is an authentic Tiffany Lamp or are told it is a Tiffany Lamp, do your due diligence and ask a ton of questions about it’s history and how the dealer obtained the lamp. If the person you are buying the lamp from is selling it as an authentic, be sure to get a written guarantee. If you are unable to get one, think twice about the purchase.
Tiffany Lamps are revered for their beauty, and although owning an authentic Tiffany Lamp may be an impossibility for the majority of us, we can still enjoy their beauty by finding quality made reproductions as well as original designs created by skilled artisans that practice the hand-made craft using Louis Comfort Tiffany's original methods of construction. If you are looking for a beautiful Tiffany-Style Lamp made by such artisans in the United States, visit www.TiffanysLamps.com.