Authentic Antique Tiffany Lamp

Knock the shade. Grab the top of the glass shade and knock on the glass lightly. Because of its age, and the drying of the wax used to hold the glass together, the shade should rattle, says Fontaine. A firmer glass shade that doesnt rattle could be a fake.

The Geometric category speaks for itself. Tiffany used small geometric shapes such as triangles, squares, rectangles, and ovals to form these specific lamps. Next is the Transition to Flowers group, which is subdivided into the Flowered Cone and Globe Lamps. All of these lamps follow a defined nature or botanical design using flowers, dragonflies, spiders and their webs, butterflies, and peacock feathers. The difference between these two smaller categories is that the lamps encompass different shapes, a cone, and a globe. Tiffanys colleagues included Emarel Freshel and Clara Driscoll; they are known as two of his famed workers. Freshel designed the Wisteria and Pond Lily lamps; Driscoll made patterns consisting of flowers and butterflies for Tiffany lamps.

When it comes to Antique Tiffany lamps, everyone thinks theyve got one;

Stamps: The base of Tiffany lamps almost always carried a Tiffany Studios stamp with a number. Many of the glass shades were also stamped. Its also important to remember that an item stampedTiffany & Co., the high-end jewelry and fine goods shop, is not the same. The lamps made by Louis Comfort Tiffany were stamped Tiffany Studios New York.

To view listings of our past Authentic Antique Louis Comfort Tiffany Lamps and lighting and our antique Tiffany lamp price guide, please visit and search the auctions for Tiffany

Not all Tiffany Studios lamps were signed; therefore, the signature cannot always be relied on as an authentication factor for an original lamp. Key features to look for when determining authenticity of the shade are the quality of glass, craftsmanship thats most evident by the quality of leading over copper foil, reinforcement wires that are attached to the inside of the shade, fading patina or small color change on the bronze parts, and a rattle when knocking lightly on the shade. The wax used to hold the glass together will dry over time and should rattle when lightly knocked, a glass shade that is firmer and doesnt rattle could be fake. Favrile shades are identified by the etched initials and quality of the glass.

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Tiffany studied all over Europe and became familiar with design techniques from other parts of the world. His artistic career started when he was 20, and he painted for a decade. While receiving a considerable amount of recognition for his paintings, Tiffanys painting career could have gone further, but he had a diverse amount of interests. After a few prior business ventures, Tiffany opened Tiffany Studios in the late 1890s, and it stayed open until the late 1920s.

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Signs of age: An authentic lamp wont look brand new. There will be what is called patina fading or small color changes on the bronze parts of the lamp. But even this is not always fool proof. Fontaine says really good reproductions mimic age on the base.

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Over the span of 20 years, Tiffany designed the many specific styles of his lamps. Most of his luminaries can be grouped into one of seven specific categories, defining their detailed characteristics; the Irregular Upper and Lower Border, Favrile, Geometric, Transition to Flowers, Flowered Cone, and Flowered Globe Lamps. The Irregular Upper and Lower Border lamps carry an openwork crown edge that helps to stimulate a branch, tree, or shrubbery. The Favrile category, which means handcrafted, identifies the first lamps Tiffany made with this label. His initials LCT later replaced the Favrile mark.

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Fontaine gets about 50 calls a week to verify if a lamp is a real Tiffany, most are not the real thing.

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Aside from their categorization, every lamp is prepared by using the Copper Foil method. First, a pattern for the lamp is drawn out on a heavy piece of cardboard. Next, a number and glass color is written on the pattern piece. After the pattern is drawn and labeled, the glass is laid over it and traced. Once the pattern is traced onto the glass, the pieces can be cut and ground to their correct shape; next, the pieces need to be cleaned so the copper foil can be applied to the edges. The copper foil solution allows the pieces to adhere together. After the lamp has been placed accordingly and it is fully bonded, the edges are soldered together for a firm hold. Finally, after the lamp has been soldered, it is cleaned to bring out its beauty.

So what to do if you think you have a Tiffany lamp in your possession? Ultimately, youll need to bring it to an expert who has years of experience dealing with them.

Light socket: Tiffany Studios usually made its lamps with a turn-paddle knob socket for on and off purposes, says Sandberg. A smaller number were made with a pull chain. Mostly, says Sandberg, companies such as General Electric, Bryant and Perkins made the sockets. A socket that has been changed could effect value. Some Tiffany lamps can also have a turn switch at the base.

Ask for a guarantee: If youre buying what you think is an authentic Tiffany lamp, make sure you get a money-back guarantee. If a shop is not willing to offer one, you might be spending a lot of money on something that could be a fake.

With over 50 years of experience, Fontaines Auction Gallery is the oldest full service auction gallery in Western Massachusetts.

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Imitations are common. Several companies mimicked the Tiffany lamp style in the 1920s with cheaper, lesser quality models. In the past 30 to 40 years, forgeries have hit the market that can fool collectors and experts alike.

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its become a phrase. Any leaded lamp is called a Tiffany lamp, adds auctioneer John Fontaine, ofFontaines Auction Gallery, who has been in the business for 42 years.

Tiffany Studios first introduced their leaded glass lamps in the late 1890s, most examples still appeal to collectors around the world. Beautiful in design and intricacy, each Tiffany lamp was made by hand. A major source of inspiration for Louis Comfort Tiffany was nature and the love he had for flowers. Tiffanys first business venture was an interior design firm in New York City, for which he designed stained glass windows, and in doing so he came up with the idea to construct lamps with the remaining pieces from his windows. Although he continued to paint and design for quite some time, Tiffanys main desire was glasswork.

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Because Tiffany produced a lot of custom-made lamps, there arent many hard rules. Its more of a combination of factors when it comes to authentication. But if youre staring at a lamp in your home, an estate sale or antique shop, look for these characteristics to help determine if it is an original.

When the lamps were made, the cost of bronze was prohibitive, so Tiffany Studios made their bases hollow and put a heavy ring of lead in the base to support the heavy shades. Tiffany Studios normally put a turn-paddle knob socket on their lamps, rarely using a pull chain. The bases were usually made of bronze, and there should be a fading patina or small color change if theyre old.

The glass: Tiffany Studios mostly made its high-quality glass in New York, says Sandberg. Tiffany used a couple of techniques that makes their lamps stand out. One is confetti glass, where specks of different colors are used on one of the many pieces of glass. Secondly, the color of the glass changes when the lamp is lit.

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People typically come upon authentic ones through their family, says Sandberg; either they inherit it or discover it in a basement or attic. Its more rare, but some have found originals at antique shops and estate sales.

References: Tiffany lamp. Sept 2006. Tiffany, Louis Comfort. Tiffany lamp. The Columbia Encyclopedia. Sixth Ed. 2001-5. Neustadt, E. Lamps of Tiffany. Neustadt Museum of Tiffany Art. 1970. Tiffany lamp. 1993/2006.Tiffany Lamp Appraisal, John Fontaine, Fontaines Auction Gallery, Pittsfield MA 01201

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Most lamps produced by Tiffany Studios were signedTiffany Studios, New York, and some included a number to identify the style of the lamp. The signatures were impressed upon a narrow bronze tag or plaque and then soldered to the shade, usually found on the inside of the lower rim. Direct impressions were made only on the base plate. The stamps consisted of the signature, base number, and occasionally the L.C.T. insignia. On favrile shades, the identifying letters and numbers were etched upon the glass surface.

Floral lamps command the most money, says Jeni Sandberg, a specialist in 20th-century decorative arts. Intense colors are what people favor. Geometric lamps are generally worth less than the floral lamps.

These are just some examples of antique Tiffany lamps sold at Fontaines Auction Gallery. Professional Auctioneer John Fontaine is an expert on lighting by Tiffany and can appraise and answer questions you may have about antique Tiffany lamps. Mr. Fontaine has been featured on CNBC news and many other popular antiques and collecting publications.

The base: Tiffany almost always made its lamps with a bronze base. There were no wood, plastic, brass or zinc bases, says Tesdell, which are common with cheaper versions. Very rarely, however, art pottery bases were made.

What theyre hoping they have is a genuine Tiffany lamp that could be worth a small fortune. The originals, made in the 1890s to 1930s by Tiffany Studios under the watchful eye of Louis Comfort Tiffany, can be worth anywhere from $4,000 to over $1 million. The most ever paid for an original was $2.8 million.

Fontaines Auction Gallery was founded over five decades ago, serving thousands of buyers and sellers throughout the world with the purchase and sale of Tiffany lamps, fine art, antiques, jewelry, watches, clocks, and lighting. With extensive knowledge of market conditions and international experience, the specialists at Fontaines work closely with collectors and consignors to provide the highest quality of service. Fontaines has the best rates in the auction industry, and all consignments are fully insured.

Published: Monday, 18 Oct 2010 1:34 PM ET

Louis Comfort Tiffany was born in 1848 and was the son of the founder of Tiffany & Co. He spent most of his life in New York City but later moved to Long Island. As a child, he was very interested in nature, often walking through the woods observing landscapes and along beaches picking up broken glass. Tiffany chose to study art and disappointed his father when he decided not to attend college and not to enter the family business.

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Imitations are common. Several companies mimicked the Tiffany lamp style in the 1920s with cheaper, lesser quality models. In the past 30 to 40 years, forgeries have hit the market that can fool collectors and experts alike.

Its origins: If youre in an antique shop or other sale, ask the seller to tell you who the previous owner was. If it came from an estate or was owned for the past 40 to 50 years by the same person, theres a better chance its a real Tiffany lamp, says Fontaine.

Lead filling. Because of the high cost of bronze when the lamps were being made, Tiffany Studios made their bases hollow, says Fontaine. In order to support the heavy glass shades, a heavy ring of lead was placed in the base. Lifting the base cap and looking in the base, you should see grayish lead.

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