History and Origin of Tiffany Studios Lamps
Tiffany Studios Lamps possess unmistakable beauty and elegance and are valued all over the world. Bearing the Tiffany name, Tiffany & Co.’s history intertwines with Tiffany Studios through Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of the famous jewelry maker and businessman. Instead of joining the family business, Tiffany decided to pursue his own artistic endeavors, landing him independent fame and fortune.
His most lucrative and renowned endeavor was Tiffany Studios, famed for unique methods in stained glass making and other luxury home goods.
The Man Behind the Lamps
While many know Louis Comfort Tiffany for his unique techniques in decorative glass, he dedicated much of his time to various artistic pursuits. He initially set out to pursue painting. Tiffany traveled across Europe and North Africa with financial means from the family business, drawing inspiration from exotic art and architecture. He continued his interest in painting but turned his attention to decorative arts in the later 1870s.
Tiffany’s first major interior design project was for his own home in New York City. One of the most significant pieces from this home was a glass window. One of his first leaded glass windows, this work featured some of the techniques he would later become famous for, including the use of confetti glass and inlaid jewels. When Tiffany Senior moved the family to another multifamily home, the Comfort Tiffany’s home and studio became places for frequent gatherings.
Tiffany went on designing private and public interiors for various clients. Most notably, President Chester Alan Arthur handpicked Tiffany to decorate rooms in the White House before he moved in. Tiffany added new furnishings, wallpapers and mantlepieces, and of course, his famous glass shades to the lamps and windows. He also added an opulent glass screen to the entrance hall, though it and many other of his additions were removed with the Roosevelt administration.
Tiffany’s first glass company bore the name Tiffany Glass Company, but that later changed to Tiffany Studios. In the early 1890s, Tiffany eventually opened his own glasshouse and began experimenting with different techniques and textures, leading to the lamps we know and love today.
The Tiffany and Co. Brand Is Born
Tiffany’s father, Charles Lewis Tiffany, founded Tiffany & Co. in 1837 as a stationery and fine goods store, and from then on became a household name in luxury jewelry. One of the most notable influences of the company is that it brought fine gemstones to the United States for Americans to purchase at home. Previously, Europe was the home of fine and rare jewelry, making it difficult for the American elite to purchase their jewels at home.
Charles Lewis Tiffany is credited with instituting the tradition of diamond engagement rings. Once a clever marketing campaign, this practice is now customary for couples the world over. With the rise to fame of Tiffany & Co. came some notable accomplishments, including:
- President Abraham Lincoln purchases a Tiffany pearl necklace and earring set for his wife to wear for his inauguration.
- Tiffany introduces America’s first stopwatch, the Tiffany Timer.
- The world’s largest yellow diamond is purchased and displayed at the Tiffany & Co. store.
- Tiffany is commissioned to redesign the great seal of the United States, which still appears on the dollar bill to date.
Charles Lewis Tiffany passed away in 1902 and Louis Tiffany then became artistic director for the jewelry company. He brought his eye for art to his jewelry designs, which garnered attention from art critics and the press for using naturalistic themes and semi-precious stones.
The Inspiration Behind the Tiffany Studios Lamp
The construction and thematic elements of Tiffany’s glass lamps stand out, even against modern works of art. The use of special glass-making techniques and brand-new methods of attaching stained glass allowed Tiffany to create complex, delicate designs.
The craftsmanship and value of Tiffany Studios lamps start with the materials and methods of construction. Tiffany used a new copper-foil technique to build his stained glass shades, as the previously used wide lead rods weren’t suited to delicate patterns or curves. The copper-foil technique was effective but also extremely labor-intensive for the artisans at Tiffany Studios, which is one reason Tiffany lamps were valued so highly.
Another unique element of the construction was, of course, the various types and shades of glass Tiffany was able to achieve. The Favrile technique, the mixing of various shades of glass that results in an opalescent effect, is a trademark of Tiffany Studios glass. Additionally, artisans used confetti glass, which involves adding small specks of colored glass into another color glass while it was still hot and malleable to create a speckled look.
Tiffany looked to nature as inspiration for a majority of his glasswork. He used glass to convert the rich colors and textures of the natural world in a wholly unique way. Some of the most common themes in his lamps include:
- Flora, such as grass, flowers and trees.
- Insects like dragonflies, butterflies and spiders.
- Water worlds with fish and seaweed.
With an eye for intricate detail, Tiffany incorporated the brass base of the lamps into the design theme — often as trees or vines.
Tiffany Studios Lamps: A Modern Day Legacy
Today, Tiffany Studios’ lamp price tags usually start in the thousands. A combination of brand name, historic significance, superior craftmanship and gorgeous design make Tiffany lamps some of the most valuable luxury home goods on the market. One particularly unique Tiffany table lamp sold at auction for $3.37 million, and there are many examples of other Tiffany Studios lamps that sell for tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While a lucky few shoppers have discovered Tiffany Studios lamps in forgotten corners of thrift stores or estate sales, most people who have a Tiffany Lamp certainly know about it. These works of art often stay in the same family or even with a single owner before they are up for auction. Auction houses and antique dealers value Tiffany Studios lamps highly, and they use an extensive appraisal process to ensure it is authentic.
Since Tiffany Studios lamps are highly prized, manufacturers have begun to produce Tiffany-style lamps as reproductions. As for some Tiffany-style lamp history, these can also fetch a high price tag, but are certainly nowhere close to an authentic Tiffany. Some may mistake a Tiffany-style lamp for the real thing, which is why appraisal is such an important part of the auction process. Spotting an authentic Tiffany lamp takes a trained eye, but the signature Tiffany craftsmanship and quality generally reveal themselves in the real lamps.
Buy or Consign a Tiffany Studios Lamp
Become a part of history when you buy or consign a Tiffany Studios lamp with Fontaine’s Auction Gallery. When you consign your Tiffany lamp and other luxury or antique items with a highly-trusted dealer like Fontaine’s, you can be sure your items reach their best sale potential. If you’re looking for a statement piece or decorative artwork to add to your collection, purchasing with Fontaine’s guarantees a secure sale with the utmost confidence.
If you’d like more information on selling with Fontaine’s Auction Gallery, contact us for more information about the process. On the other hand, if you’re on the lookout for authentic Tiffany Studios lamps, check out the different ways you can buy with Fontaine’s.