What is a Tiffany Lamp – The story of the authentic tiffany lamp ?




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A genuine Tiffany Lamp is a distinct type of lamp made famous and by Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) and his designers. The most commonly recognised style of light is the stained glass leaded lamp. The core of authentic tiffany lamps is in the metal fittings and wiring.

In this blog I discuss the key facts known about authentic Tiffany Lamps. I will discuss what a Tiffany Lamp is, how Tiffany Lamps are made, what the differences are between real tiffany lamps and tiffany style lamps, different styles of Tiffany Lamps and how much Tiffany Lamps sell for.

But what makes a Tiffany Lamp special is the vivid colors of the glass lamp shades, that was inspired by the natural beauty of light passing through stained glass.

Tiffany Lamps were inspired by nature amongst the gardens of his country estates. Louis Comfort Tiffany carefully documented the forms and structure of flowers, vines and fauna, such as dragonfly’s and transferred them into his glasswork designs.

Tiffany Studios in fact employed many female designers who worked semi-autonomously of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s direction. They received little recognition for their efforts until modern times.

Rutgers professor Martin Eidelburg identified in 2007 that Clara Driscoll was the master designer behind the most complex and important of the leaded glass Lamps produced by Tiffany Studios.

Louis Comfort Tiffany’s designs were popularized during the Art Nouveau Movement that was popular both in Europe and the United States between 18910 and 1910.

This blog highlights where to buy genuine antique Tiffany floor lamps

Once you’ve built your lamp you’ll need to keep it looking pristine. Check out my guide on How to clean a Tiffany Lamp

Authentic Tiffany Lamps

Original Tiffany Lamps versus Reproduction Tiffany Lamps

Generally, a real tiffany lamp is an original tiffany studios design from the early 1900s made by Louis and his firm. Many of the techniques used to produce tiffany lamps are patented by Tiffany. A tiffany lamp is a hand-crafted work of art with each piece having its own unique pattern of colors and textures.

On the other hand, a reproduction tiffany lamp is created by imitating what Louis Comfort Tiffany did in his Tiffany Studios workshop. Many of these original tiffany lamps are made from techniques that have been modified from what was originally produced by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Genuine tiffany lamps have specific trademark stamp what makes it valuable and costly because of its limited supply. So we can identify between real tiffany lamps, genuine lamps and replica lamps. A replica lamp is less expensive than a real one but for an expert it’s easy to recognize what you have. A real Tiffany Lamp is always high quality and handmade, that makes it expensive to buy one.

Tiffany studio lamps vs. Tiffany lamps

Reproduction lamps also include what are called tiffany style lamps. These simply do not meet the standards of what a real tiffany lamp truly is. Tiffany styles are just interpretations of what Louis Comfort Tiffany envisioned for his lamps over 100 years ago. It should be noted that many people will use the term ‘tiffany style lamp’ for what they are actually selling or what they assume what a tiffany lamp is supposed to look like.

What is so special about Tiffany lamps ?

For a long time, they have been a symbol of luxury and beauty. Original Tiffany lamps are beautiful pieces of art created by Louis Comfort Tiffany during the height of his career as an artist in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Tiffany started out as a painter but soon became interested with glass. He was inspired by famous artists who worked with glass, such as Daum Frères and Émile Gallé. He started experimenting with glass in his uncle’s workshop.
His experiments were not successful at first; but he did not give up trying. Eventually, Tiffany was able to create what he envisioned glass could be: colorful and artistic. His original lamp designs were inspired by nature.

His first lamp, made in 1885, was a water lily cast from an actual flower which he grew in his greenhouses at home. Tiffany eventually moved on to cast colorful images of bird feathers and insect wings. All of these designs were what inspired him to create what would be known as the Favrile line of lamps.

Antique Tiffany Lamps Value

Genuine antique tiffany lamps are what you might call a “hot item.”

Tiffany’s work may be reproduced, but what is real and what isn’t can be very difficult to determine.

Auctions are where most of the genuine tiffany lamp are sold, though some of the best examples are exhibited in galleries or private collections.

Authentic antique tiffany lamps, when real and still functional, go from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars at auctions.

The most expensive lamp in the world sold in 1989 in London for what was about $1.3 million US Dollars [USD].

If you have damage to your Tiffany Lamp Shade read my guide on How to Repair a Tiffany Lamp. Its sure to be cheaper than buying a new genuine lamp!

To read more on the most expensive tiffany lamp read my blog:

What is a Tiffany Lamp Worth ? – Most expensive Tiffany Lamps

Some of the most popular Tiffany lamp themes are: The Tiffany Butterfly Lamp, Tiffany Daffodil Lamp, Tiffany Dragonfly Lamp, The Greek Key Lamp, Nautilus Lamp & Peacock lamp

Is Tiffany Studios the same as Tiffany and Co ?

Tiffany & Company is a separate entity to Tiffany Studios, trading since 1837, specialising in Jewellery. In a way Louis Comfort Tiffany’s legacy has been surpassed by his father as Tiffany Studios has long since been closed.

Charles Lewis Tiffany lamented in an account in The Brooklyn Eagle in 1888 that his son Louis Comfort Tiffany had “never developed any fondness or capacity for trade”

How are Tiffany Lamps made ?

Authentic Lamps were handmade by the skilled craftspeople of the Tiffany Design Studio. The first lamp was made around 1895. The last lamps were made around 1930 when Tiffany Studios was closed.

The copper foil method was used to create a lamp. First a template would have been made with a sheet of cardboard. Each section of the pattern was given a number and color. The template was then traced onto the glass, and the glass cut to match. Around the edges of each piece the copper foil would be applied.

It is the copper foil that allows each colored glass piece to stick to each other. To finish and strengthen the joins the edges are soldered together.

What materials are Tiffany Lamps made of ?

Genuine Tiffany Lamp base are made of what is called ‘composition metal.’ Composition metal is a combination of copper, tin and zinc. It has been the choice material for Tiffany style lamps since its use in 1886. This metal was chosen because it had more lustre than other metals used at this time, such as brass or nickel. The color and finish of this metal remained stable over time.

What materials are Tiffany Lamp shades made of ?

The iconic stained glass shade are typically made using favrile glass.

Creative Commons Tiffany Favrile Lamp

Tiffany Lamps with natural scenes, such as flowers and plants, utilize the naturally colored glass found in nature.

Fantasy creations of what Tiffany called “favrile glass” are often created by mixing various metallic oxides into the molten glass to produce vibrant colors that would not be possible in naturally occurring glass.

Favrile glass shades are typically what people imagine when they think of a Tiffany Lamp and what most people find when searching for a real Tiffany Lamp.

Does Tiffany still make lamps ?

Tiffany studios was shut down in 1933 for numerous reasons including the Great Depression.
However, what was left of it today became what is known as the Tiffany Foundation.

History of Tiffany Studios

Louis founded what is now known as the “Tiffany Studios” which later became what we know as the tiffany lamps.

The studios were first located on Broadway and Maiden Lane in what is now known as the Financial District of New York City.

As his business grew he moved to 38th and 39th Street and later, in 1892 to Corona Heights, Long Island City.

What were the Tiffany Glassworks?

Tiffany Glassworks was the name of several similar glassworks that were part of what is now otherwise known as Tiffany Studios New York or The Tiffany Glass company.

The Tiffany glass works were specifically set up by Louis Comfort Tiffany to specialise in the production of his patented favrile glass.

Tiffany Glassworks was founded in 1885 at Corona, New York.

Louis Comfort Tiffany Favrile Glass

Favrile was a term trademarked by Tiffany and was used to describe the production of the early lamps.

The early lamps were more basic in form and utilized several types of glass to create leaded and blown shades. These do not have patterns as seen in later lamps.

Types of Tiffany Lamps

Tiffany Lamps have been designed in for a wide range of lighting fixtures:

• Tiffany Wall lights
• Tiffany Ceiling Lights
• Tiffany Ceiling Light flush mount
• Tiffany Chandeliers
• Tiffany Pendant light
• Tiffany Table Lamps
• Tiffany Desk Lamps
• Tiffany Floor Lamps
• Tiffany Ceiling fan
• Tiffany Hanging Lamps
• Tiffany Kitchen island lighting

What different styles of authentic tiffany lamp shades are there?

Tiffany Geometric Lamps

The most basic of the patterned lamps, the patterns tend to be in regular shapes such as squares or triangles.

Creative Commons Tiffany Studios Favrile Glass and Bronze Geometric Table Lamp circa 1910

The lamps are made from poured glass rather than the blown method seen in the Favrile examples.

The more famous of the Geometric designs were made from large pieces of glass like the famous “turtleback tiles”.

Other less desired lamps were made with a larger number of smaller glass pieces.

Transition to flowers in Tiffany Lamps

The most intricate of Tiffany’s lamps are the later “Transition to Flowers” group.

Creative Commons Tiffany Lamp Example of Transition to Flower

These lamps play heavily on the forms of nature observed by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s lamps and feature designs using dragonflies, flowers, spiderwebs, butterflies, and peacock feathers

The latter lamps are further subdivided into the Flowered Cone and Globe lamps.

Flowered cone Tiffany Lamps

Tiffany’s cone shades heavily feature floral patterns.

The shades themselves are essentially straight sided and the rims are circular.

They brought in a cost saving, when compared to the earlier leaded shapes, as they are easier and cheaper to make. As a result there are many authentic examples of this type of light.

Cone shades do belong to the geometric group but are defined by their design rather than their form.

Better cone-shaped shades often feature the dragonfly, which Tiffany was particularly pleased with.

Globe and “irregular” lower shaped shades more often feature the Dragonfly design, which is very sought after, commanding high prices in modern times.

Flowered globe Tiffany Lamps

These shades, wile flowered, are plainer.

Their construction is more complicated than cone shaped light shades.

The key feature of a globe or dome design is that the shape helped the artists to “paint” a more realistic image of the floral and insect designs used.

Ranging in size from twelve inches to twenty-eight inches in diameter, globe shades were the fixture of choice for large floor lamps.

Irregular lower border group Tiffany Lamps

These shades take on a more naturalistic form, with flowing “serpentine” style rims.

The uninterrupted metal rim of previous styles has been replaced with a curved linear lower border.

These are almost always globe shaped. The exception to the rule are the panel shades that used the grape trellis design.

The natural tapering of leaves, fruit and fauna instil in the shades an Art Nouveau impression.

Irregular upper and lower borders group Tiffany Lamps

Upper and lower borders represent the final phase of development of Tiffany Lamps.

An openwork crown usurps the artificial straight edge of the apertures, simulating tree branches or shrubbery.

All finials have been eliminated, meaning heat and light are diffused throughout the crown.

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