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How to Tell If a Tiffany Lamp is Authentic
People use the phrase Tiffany lamp often to refer to any leaded glass lamp. An authentic Tiffany lamp is a lamp that was made by Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was the son of the man who founded Tiffany and Company, the famous store in New York on 57th street. Tiffany who initially began his artistic career as a painter, became interested in creating fine decorative arts, which he produced in his factories starting in the late 1880's. Tiffany is most commonly associated with the leaded decorative lamps, which he produced, however he additionally made fine bronze pieces including desk sets, candlesticks, glass mosaics and leaded glass windows for commercial and residential use. Because Tiffany's lamps bring very high prices, it is important to understand some basics about the lamps. There are several different types of lamps that were made by Tiffany. He produced leaded glass lamps in both floral and geometric patterns, including floor lamps, table lamps and chandeliers. The leaded lamps were initially made with glass that was not made by Tiffany. As his business evolved he started producing his own glass which was of superior quality and innovative. The lamps were Tiffanys's most successful commercial venture. The value of individual lamps are based on model type and quality of glass.
Simple lamps like an acorn are much less valuable than complex forms like dragonfly's or wisteria. Currently there is much more interest in floral lamps than geometric lamps. Prices for florals are much higher. Size does matter. In general the larger the lamp the greater the price: particularly for the same form. A twenty inch dragonfly is worth more than an eighteen inch one. Even in the later periods of production he often used commercial glass produced by Kokomo Glass Co. Lamps with more "studio" glass are generally worth more. Some of the special glass that Tiffany Created included mottled glass with cloud like patches of dark and light areas, dichroic glass which lit up a different color than when unlit, confetti or fracture glass, turtleback tiles which are iridescent thick pieces of glass that came in greens ,blues and reds and many different forms of glass jewels. Many Tiffany lamp shades are signed, but many are not signed, so the lack of a signature does not mean the lamp is not real.
The Tiffany lamp bases are very heavy and made of bronze. The bases are signed Tiffany Studios New York and have a model number which is unique to the specific style of lamp. He produced over 300 different lamp bases. When studying any lamp base attributed to Tiffany you will find the quality of the casting and detail almost unparalleled by any other lamp manufacturer.
When buying a Tiffany lamp it is important to know who you are purchasing it from. Because lamp restoration and even forgery has become so sophisticated, it serves a new collector well to buy from a well known dealer. While you will pay more from a recognized expert, this protection from buying heavily restored lamps or reproductions, is well worth the additional costs. Many lamp buyers assume that if a lamp is being sold at a nationally known auction house, it can be assumed that the lamp is without problems. Unfortunately this is not the case and one should proceed with great caution when buying at auctions unless you are a seasoned collector or a willing to hire an expert to evaluate lamps for you, which in most cases is the prudent course.
Dr. Robert Lerch
About The Author: I am a nationally known collector of antiques including Tiffany studios, bakelite, stained glass. My collections have been published in Architectural Digest, and several books. http://www.docpaysthemost.com Dr. Robert Lerch