Who was Louis Comfort Tiffany?
Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1848-1933, best known for his stained glass windows and lamps, was born in New York City, the son of Tiffany & Company jewelers. Independent of his parents, in 1878 he launched his own business of fine art and interior design. In 1900 he debuted his iconic stained glass Dragonfly Lamp. Painter, inventor, businessman, socialite, philosopher, Tiffany enjoyed a long, successful career.
Click here for a Timeline Biography of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
Are all Tiffany lamps real Tiffanies?
No. Today “Tiffany” is a generic name given to any stained glass lamp.
Authentication - How can I tell if I own a real Tiffany lamp?
Probably you don’t, but to make sure…
Check the inside of the shade for a narrow bronze tag, soldered to the lower rim stamped “Tiffany Studios New York”. Also, direct impressions of the letters “L.C.T. Co” were made on the bottom of the base. However, signatures cannot always be relied upon since not all lamps were signed.
Other means of verifying authenticity are:
Appraised by a professional appraiser
Provenance (ownership history)
Age - authentic Tiffany lamps were produced from 1890 to 1932
Purchasing through reputable auction houses and antique dealers
Purchase price - from a few hundred dollars during the 1930s-1950s to prices starting at $10,000 during the 1960s to hundreds of thousands of dollars today. Note: during the early 1970s excellent reproductions were being sold at high prices as authentic, signed Tiffanies.
Be suspicious of poor quality materials, (the base made of pot metal), shoddy craftsmanship, a clean, new look (absence of cracks or loose pieces due to age).
Note: An authentic Tiffany lamp should be insured as fine art and properly displayed in a safe place.
You describe the typical imperfections of expensive, handmade glass (left). Each piece is unique and is difficult to score and cut causing costly wastage. But each piece offers a palette rich in character and colors. Commercial, machine-rolled glass (right) will not have these desired imperfections. Each sheet will be uniform and smooth, easy to cut, usually a single color, although today, pigments are mixed in for interest. It will cost less and can look like plastic.
Our shades are made in the Tiffany method:
Small pieces of glass are cut according to the pattern.
Their edges are smoothed on a grinder and wrapped with copper foil.
Like a jigsaw puzzle, each piece is tacked into place on the pattern mold, then soldered together.
The shade is then pulled off the mold and soldered on the inside.
As the final step, the shade is patinaed, washed, and polished.
Art Glass Peony lamp by Shades of Tiffany
Louis Comfort Tiffany
Shade signature tags
Handrolled art glass
Pansy shade pattern/mold
From upper left: cutting oil, goggles, flux, mask, solder spool, copper foil, solder iron
Will the sun fade the colors of my stained glass lamp?
No. Stained glass is fired at a high temperature, rendering it's color pigments permanent.
How do I care for my stained glass lamp?
Instructions for proper care and cleaning of your stained glass lamp:
Before cleaning, disconnect the lamp from the power source, and if possible, separate the shade from the base to avoid accidents while cleaning.
Apply a lemon oil based furniture polish to a soft cloth and rub gently on both shade and base.
Avoid using a terry cloth or looped fabrics as they may catch and pull applied filigrees such as dragonfly wings.
To clean Tiffany products made of beveled or transparent glass such as windows, apply a household glass cleaner to a soft cloth, and wipe gently.
For Tiffany products that have become greasy or have dirt buildup, apply a soft cloth with warm soapy water, dry and reapply lemon oil based furniture polish for best results.
For general maintenance, dust with a soft cloth or a feather duster.
Please contact me and I will do my best to answer them.
Lorena Calcagni, owner
Shades of Tiffany
How are manufacturers allowed to produce exact Tiffany lamp copies and use the name “Tiffany”?
During the Art Deco 1920’s, Tiffany’s Victorian style fell out of fashion and in 1932 his studios closed in bankruptcy with no claim to the name of Tiffany or his lamp patterns. Today they are in public domain and are freely reproduced worldwide.
When I tap on my shade it doesn’t sound like glass. How can I tell if it is made of glass or plastic?
An uncut sheet of glass will vibrate with a “ting” sound when tapped. However once it is cut into many small pieces that are soldered together to form a shade, its properties are changed. It will now produce a “thud” sound when tapped. The “tapper” will surmise the shade is made of plastic. It is not. Most tiffany style shades are made of glass.
Why are there bubbles, cracks, irregular color, and lumpy texture in the glass? Are these imperfections?
How are stained glass lamp shades made, and how long does it take?
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
We were part of the ‘70s scene in San Francisco when Tiffany lamps were being rediscovered. We were among the first stained glass artisans to replicate them and are still doing what we love to do today.
We do not sell commercial imports, only our own work.
Our lamps and windows are not mass produced.
We do not print a catalog due to the unique nature of our products.
Our stock is not set; we always have something new.
Our selection includes original designs, contemporary styles as well as Tiffany replicas.
Our lamps and windows are made with hand rolled, American art glass.
Mix and match--our lamp shades can be used as hanging, table or floor lamps, depending on your choice of hardware.
You will receive a printed history of the Tiffany lamp pattern you choose.
We provide higher quality lamps at competitive prices.
We have been a local San Francisco/Bay Area, and worldwide favorite for over 40 years and still going strong.
We provide friendly, personal customer service.
What makes Shades of Tiffany different from other Tiffany-style lamp sources?
For shades with 400 pieces (ex. Dragonfly), construction time requires approximately 46 hours - for the professional. For more complex shades (ex. Wisteria – 2,000 pieces), construction time can take months.
Why is the Dragonfly Lamp so popular and what is its significance?
This is a common question that many of my customers have asked. The Dragonfly Lamp has a fascinating story and I have written about it in my monthly newsletters. Click here to read all about the famous Dragonfly Lamp - it’s birth and significance.
Pot-bellied Dragonfly Lamp c.1900