Tiffany lamps were the creation of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848 to 1933), a brilliant American designer, best known for his work in stained glass.
Tiffany is most associated with the Aesthetic and Art Nouveau movements, and was affiliated with the Associated Artists, a collaborative group of designers that included Samuel Colman, Candace Wheeler, Lockwood de Forest and others.
Origins of Tiffany Lamps
Louis Tiffany was best known for his stained glass windows and lamps, ceramics, glass mosaics, blown glass pieces, enamels and metalwork.
A Tiffany style lamp will be recognized by the distinctive stained glass shade, made with pieces of stained glass soldered together using copper foil.
Associated with the Art Nouveau movement, original Tiffany lamps are one of the most important American contributions to the movement, which started in Europe during the late 19th century.
Designed around 1895 with a bronze base designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the first Tiffany lamp set an innovative and highly distinctive design aesthetic for table and floor lamps in the Art Nouveau style. Initially, Tiffany purchased many of the bases for his lamps from art pottery firms but most were cast in bronze.
Tiffany Lamp Design Patterns
Over the next twenty years, Tiffany designed various styles of lamps, of which there are seven primary categories, each defined by specific characteristics. These are the Irregular Upper and Lower Border, Favrile, Geometric, Transition to Flowers, Flowered Cone, and Flowered Globe groups.
Tiffany’s Irregular Upper and Lower Border lamps are distinguished by the openwork crown edge, which is meant to represent a branch, shrubbery or tree.
Meaning “handcrafted, the Favrile category includes the first lamps that Tiffany made with the Favrile stamp. The stamp was later replaced by Tiffany’s initials, which is one way collectors are able to determine the approximate date that a Tiffany Favrile lamp or other glass item was made.
In the geometric category, Tiffany designed lamp shades with small geometric shapes like rectangles, ovals, triangles and squares in the designs.
Later Tiffany introduced the Transition to Flowers group. This category can be further subdivided into the Flowered Cone and Globe lamp designs, with the difference being the shape of the lamp shade.
All of these table lamps and floor lamps are designed with nature or botanical themes. Tiffany commonly designed the lamp shades using natural forms like peacock feathers, spider webs, flowers, dragonflies and butterflies.
Tiffany Lamp Copper Foil Technique
Tiffany crafted his lamps using the Copper Foil method. The pattern for the lamp is first drawn on a piece of heavy cardboard. Numbers and glass colors are then written on the pattern pieces so that pieces are labeled correctly.
The glass is then laid over the pattern and carefully traced so that the pieces can be cut and grinded to the proper shapes. After thorough cleaning, the glass pieces are ready to apply the copper foil to the edges.
A copper foil solution is used to bond the glass pieces together, and then the pieces are soldered together firmly. After soldering is completed, the lamp is cleaned, giving it the final beauty and luminescent qualities intended in the design.
Original Tiffany Prices and Reproduction Lamps
Original tiffany lamps are highly coveted by collectors and the record price paid for an original one is more than $8 million USD! Smaller, less rare, original Tiffany table lamps can still be found in the range of $5,000 to $10,000 but original Tiffany floor lamps will be difficult to find under $20,000 today, and more rare models will generally be over $100,000.
While many of us will never be able to afford an original Tiffany glass table lamp, there are many reproduction lamps available on the market today, some of very high quality and can be good investments.
Many studios mass create Tiffany-style lamps using similar techniques to those of the original Tiffany Studios. With myriad glass colors and designs available in these handmade lamps, you will have fun selecting one that fits your home decor.
These reproduction table lamps will range in price from less than $100 for cheaper varieties, to well over $1,000 for heirloom handmade lamps in the more intricate design patterns.
Whether you purchase an original or heirloom quality Tiffany lamp on eBay or at an auction house or antique dealer, be sure you understand all the pertinent details and know its value.
A certificate of authenticity is recommended and you should only purchase original Tiffany pieces from a well established and trusted source. Knowing the provenance, or history of its owners, is even more important in order to be sure of its authenticity.
You will treasure the timeless beauty and quality of your Tiffany lamp for many years and it will be a focal point of your home decor admired by anybody who appreciates the artistry and superior craftsmanship of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Tiffany Studios.