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Tiffany Lamps exploring the wonderful world of Tiffany

Updated on January 24, 2013

 

The old cliché, “True craftsmanship stands the test of time” is very accurate. An example of this is found in Tiffany lamps.

 

Beginning in the 1880’s, with the introduction of the first lamps, just about everyone today can picture one of these stained glass treasures. From the origins of a simple pile of left over glass pieces, a man with creativity and skill to match, transformed them into the first Tiffany Lamp. Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) was the inventor and artist. Through a partnership with another American inventor, Thomas Edison, in the back drop of a movie theater, these two American innovators worked together to produce the first electric Tiffany Lamp.

Tiffany Style Lamps

The word “Tiffany” can become a broad term for any lamp or light of the stained glass variety. But originally the true creator of these lights was artist Louis Comfort Tiffany.

 

L.C. Tiffany began as a painter. Then he turned his interests to specialty glass manufacturing and stained glass window design. Inspired by a collection of discarded cut offs from his stained glass windows, he used them to fashion the first Tiffany style lamp.

 

The first lamps were very simple in design. Squares, rectangles, and other geometric shapes were cut and then laid into a pattern. But then came the question of how to hold several hundred tiny piece of glass in place. The answer came in the form of copper foil applied along the edges of each glass piece. Then Tiffany soldered each piece together, making one solid piece of glass with “copper glue” holding it together. Tiffany’s metal working expertise was also turned to the lamp stands. His love for interior decorating couldn’t let him place such a unique shade on just any lamp. So he developed specialty bases. Some were even in the form of a tree. The Tiffany Studios went on to even design some bases in the form of trees, such as the Wisteria Tree lamp. Today this has remained one of the most popular styles.

Tiffany Lamp Shades The Tiffany Girls

As mentioned above, Tiffany had a great interest in stained glass artwork. His stained glass was known in Europe and in the United States a like. In 1881 President Arthur even commissioned one of his designs for the White House. He applied his art and his innovation to these lights, but it was actually someone else that developed the most popular designs.

The geometric shapes in the lamps were only the beginning. As popularity of the lights grew more artisans were hired. A small group of ladies referred to as “Tiffany Girls” cut glass and also were some of the most innovative in creating new designs.

 

One of these Tiffany Girls, a lady by the name of Clara Driscoll was a design director for Tiffany Studios. She and the Tiffany Girls were the ones to develop many of the most popular tiffany lamp shades design, including Dragon Fly, Daffodil, Wisteria, and Peony.

 

Antique Tiffany

Antique Tiffany Lamp Dragon Fly Design Wiki
Antique Tiffany Lamp Dragon Fly Design Wiki

The Glass

Not only were the designs, copper joinery, and lamp bases important. But so was the glass itself.

Stained glass windows began by painting the glass. L.C. Tiffany pioneered colored glass manufacturing. Impurities in the glass, such as found in inexpensive jelly jars caught his interest. After approaching several glass foundries in an attempt to obtain different colored glass, Tiffany decided to begin his own glass works. The short sighted glass manufacturers refused to lave the impurities (the back bone of the stained glass he was trying to develop) in the finer glass. After beginning his foundry he developed many types of glass. Different colors and textures, including his patented iridescent effect were also achieved by mixing hot glass together.

 

Due to his father’s wealth and connections, a man like L.C. Tiffany was able to take his ideas and have the time and resources to develop it into a business like the Tiffany Studios. If you think about it, how many people could just open a glass foundry to try a new business venture. And how many more pioneering things would have been developed in this world if brilliant unrecognized inventors had had the finances to carry out their research. L.C. Tiffany was one of the lucky ones.

Antique Tiffany Lamps

 

Louis Tiffany coined the word “Favrile”. This word, derived from an ancient French word for handcrafted, or “hand-wrought”, also used in conjunction with Tiffany’s 1894 patented “febrile iridescent glass”. Many times highly crafted items are signed by their creators. Paintings are autographed. Books bare the author’s name under the title. Much of the original Tiffany works were not signed or stamped when they were made. Many times the inscriptions found on true original Tiffanies were added later to enhance the resale value. Some people etched L.C.T. into the Tiffany lamp shades or bases. But in reality, if Tiffany did mark a piece it was with his word, “Favrile” or numbers. Some of the stained glass lamp shades were however stamped with a more descriptive “Tiffany Studios”.

 

Recognized for impeccable craftsmanship the original antique Tiffany lamps are sought after by collectors. In the 1970’s these prized lamps commanded a price of about $20,000. Today originals are sold for as much as several million dollars. In the last several years a private Japanese collector has been purchasing many originals as they become available, making Tiffanies even more rare and expensive.

Tiffany Style Lamps from Mark Twin's Museum

Selecting Your Tiffany Lamp

For those of us who love the stained glass treasures, there are many good replicas available. Tiffany lights are available in Tiffany table lamp, tiffany floor lamp, accent lamps, down and cone design shades, hanging lights, wall sconce, and pendant lights. Common names for reproductions are Meyda Tiffany, Dale Tiffany Lamps, and Quoizel. Price from under $100 to about $500 they are easily obtained.

There are also very high quality replicas. Made from the same quality and hand craftsmanship as the originals, these companies would include Kokomo, Oceana, Stripple, Bullseye, a few others. Replicas from these companies are in the $500 to $5,000 neighborhood.

Soft colored light, lovely designs, and non typical

Living Rooms washed in the soft colored light with unique designs are a lovely place to relax. The Tiffany style lamps on the market today are of a wide range of colors and styles. For a creative touch, these non-typical lights are perfect. Designs such as the Wisteria Tree have uneven edges and a unique dome to catch your eye.



Dale Tiffany Company

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    • profile image

      Mel 6 years ago

      Came anyone tell me about the hummingbird collection floor lamps... I have acquired one as a gift, but I cannot find out much about it.......

    • profile image

      Haitham Al-Ubaidi 8 years ago

      A great article. I collect and sell Tiffany lamps and can only offer 1 additional comment. The artist behind the first Tiffany Studios Lamps was actually a lady, Carla Driscoll who worked for Louis Comfort Tiffany.

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