University of Michigan Museum of Art: Chandelier, from the library of the Henry O. Havemeyer house, New York; Louis Comfort Tiffany

Chandelier, from the library of the Henry O. Havemeyer house, New York; Louis Comfort Tiffany

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Tiffany Lamp Info Guide

The Most Beautiful and Valuable Lamps in the World

The Tiffany Lamp Info Guide focuses on lamps created by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios during the specific period of the early 1890’s through the late 1930’s.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Is Your Tiffany Lamp Genuine?

Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848-1933) began creating his famous lampshades in the early 1890’s. The public got its first glimpse of these at the 1893 World’s Colombian Exposition in Chicago where Tiffany exhibited two large light fixtures along with his leaded-glass window exhibit.

Tiffany began selling his blown glass shades in the mid-1890’s, then leaded glass shades in 1898, which actually began as a by-product of the stained-glass windows that preceded them. Tiffany used the several thousands of pieces of glass that remained after cutting individual elements for his windows.

Genuine Tiffany Lamps routinely sell for $10,000 or more. Many sell at auction in the six-figure-range up to a staggering $2-million-plus for a single lamp! Not bad considering in 1900 the average Tiffany lamp sold for $100 with some of the smaller examples bringing as little as $40.

A major downside to super-high-priced antiques and collectibles though, is that they continually bring out a fresh crop of reproductions that flood the market. Most are well-intentioned copies not meant to fool anybody; however, there are unscrupulous dealers and out-right forgers that add maker’s marks and use aging techniques to bilk unsuspecting collectors and interior decorators out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Identifying a Fake Tiffany Lamp

It is estimated that for every genuine Tiffany lamp there is a fake one. Now, when I use the term “fake” I’m not referring to a newly created Tiffany-style lamp based on an original Tiffany Studios design—I’m referring to a lamp created or altered specifically with the intention of being passed-off as an original coming out of either L. C. Tiffany & Associated Artists, L. C. Tiffany & Co or the Tiffany Studios in New York during the mid-1890’s through 1930’s. Without deliberate attempts to deceive, a newly created Tiffany-style lamp is not a fake in the sense that no one is trying to pass it off as genuine—it’s simply a nice piece of decorative art.

So how can we tell? Well, you first need to realize that it is much easier to tell if a lamp is a fake rather than if it is genuine. This is because true Tiffany originals were hand-made and were not consistently marked and some lack marks altogether. There is no hard-and-fast rule to follow that says they did it “this way” or “that way”. Therefore, you’ll have a better chance of revealing a fake by catching the tell-tale signs of the many methods used to deceive, and eliminate those characteristics from the lamp in question.

Characteristics of a fake Tiffany lamp:

  1. POOR QUALITY AND SHODDY CRAFTSMANSHIP. It’s safe to say that if your lamp was manufactured with low-grade glass and sloppy soldering, or if the base was made of pot metal, chances are it’s a fake. Tiffany only used high-quality materials and expert craftsmen.

  1. APPLIED ANTIQUING TO THE SHADE. Take a look at any dust-soiling or grime covering your lampshade. Was it purposely sprayed on or coated? You should be able to take a Q-tip with some acetone (nail-polish remover) and swab the glass without any dirt or grime coming off that couldn’t also be taken off with soap and water. No coloring should transfer to the Q-tip from any Tiffany leaded glass shade.

  1. ABSENCE OF CRACKS OR LOOSE ELEMENTS. It is rare to find an authentic Tiffany leaded glass shade without at least few cracks. This is because the heat generated by the light-bulb stresses the glass causing it to crack. Also, it is unusual for no pieces to become loose over the years. You can gently tap the individual elements and notice that some will rattle. If all the pieces are tight and without cracks, it doesn’t mean it’s a fake, but I’d be skeptical.

  1. UNEVEN MAKERS MARKS. Although some Tiffany shades were not marked, many were, and almost all lamp bases were. Also, note that there was no consistent method of marking Tiffany lamps, so this can be quite confusing. At any rate, the one tell-tale sign on marked pieces is that all letters and numerals in a single line mark should be of the same height. Forgers sometimes use two different sets of stamps to mark their fakes resulting in uneven markings. Some bases were marked with the TGDCO logo and TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK. If the logo appears without the text, it is likely a fake.

  1. FRESH MAKERS MARKS. When pieces were marked, they were usually die-stamped, and they were usually stamped before the patina was applied. Therefore, if the mark does not have the same patina as the surrounding area, I’d be skeptical. Usually when a fake piece is stamped after the patination process, the marks appear shiny with fresh metal exposed. Be aware too that many of the newer forgeries have the mark casted in the base during the molding process which would mean they would pass the patina test; however, stamped marks have a sharper appearance than molded pieces, and after a while it is pretty easy to tell the difference.

  1. MARKED WITH A MIXTURE OF UPPER AND LOWER CASE LETTERS. All original Tiffany Studios marks are in full capitol letters. If there are any lower case letters, beware.

  1. MARKS CONTAINING SERIFS ON THE LETTERS. Serifs are the little tails or hooks on the letters of some fonts (such as Times New Roman). All original Tiffany Studios marks contain only sans-serif letters—the “T” in Tiffany should consist of only two lines without any little accents. An authentic TGDCO logo however, if it should appear on your piece, does have serifs in its letters.
There are many other ways Tiffany lamps are faked, but just knowing the above clues should greatly reduce the chances you will get taken, and bring you closer to evaluating the authenticity of your piece.

4/23/2007: I found a Socket Tutorial that may prove useful for identifying the year your lamp was made.

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The Lyman Allyn Art Museum Acquires Tiffany Stained Glass Window

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE LYMAN ALLYN ART MUSEUM ACQUIRES TIFFANY STAINED GLASS WINDOW

October 15, 2014
Lyman Allyn Art Museum
Press Contact: Rebecca Marsie, Communications Coordinator
860.443.2545 x112 / marsie@lymanallyn.org

Come Unto Me,photo courtesy of Robert Baldwin, collection of Lyman Allyn Art Museum
Louis Comfort Tiffany, New York, Come Unto Me, 1924, Favrile glass; 72” x 76” , photo courtesy of Robert Baldwin

New London – The Lyman Allyn Art Museum is delighted to announce the acquisition of a magnificent stained-glass window created by the renowned Tiffany Studios in New York. In 1924, Come Unto Me was installed above the pulpit in the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church of New London, CT and was dedicated to the memory of Anna Chaplin Rumrill, a member of that congregation. This exquisite work of art depicts a beatific Jesus standing with outstretched arms in the foreground of a lustrous landscape with mountains, a lake, and cypress trees. The large window (72” tall x 76” wide) is signed by Louis Comfort Tiffany and composed entirely of Favrile glass.

On October 9th, 2014, the Board of the All Souls Congregation agreed to sell the Tiffany window to the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. By accepting the Museum’s offer, the Congregation ensures that the prized window remains on public view in New London.

“The acquisition of this glorious work of art by one of America’s most treasured designer/artists is a major event in our institution’s history and one that will make a dramatic impact on our collection,” said D. Samuel Quigley, Director of the Lyman Allyn. “We are honored to be working with the All Souls Congregation to keep this treasure here in New London, ensuring that it remains available for all in our community to enjoy for generations to come.”

By stepping forward to purchase the window, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum has committed to providing gallery space and special care for the window. Come Unto Me will be an extremely important new addition to the Museum’s collection, complementing the dozens of small vessels and wares by Tiffany that are already housed in the Lyman Allyn.

The Lyman Allyn plans to install the Tiffany window in a special gallery celebrating the art of Louis Comfort Tiffany and his connection to New London. “We look forward to creating a beautiful gallery which will present the compelling story of Tiffany’s artistry and his place in New London’s history. Envision a darkened gallery with the brilliant rear-illuminated stained-glass window as its centerpiece. With other works and text panels for context, the learning possibilities are nearly boundless,” said Quigley.

By a fortuitous set of circumstances, there is a long history of the Tiffany family in the City of New London, and an accompanying large concentration of Tiffany stained-glass windows. Annie Olivia Tiffany Mitchell, sister of Louis Comfort Tiffany, married Alfred Mitchell and made their summer home overlooking the Thames River in New London; their estate is now the site of Mitchell College.  Mitchell and Tiffany became acquainted with members of the local community, and many commissions for stained-glass windows consequently came their way. Louis Comfort Tiffany designed five large windows for St. James Episcopal Church and other impressive windows for the Palmer Mausoleum in Cedar Grove Cemetery, the Pequot Chapel, and the Lighthouse Inn.

Lyman Allyn’s acquisition of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Come Unto Me keeps this cherished treasure in New London, and furthers the Museum’s commitment to serve as a cultural, educational and community resource for the people of Southeastern Connecticut. The Tiffany window will stand as a unique source of inspiration and learning about the decorative arts for the Museum’s visitors and will strengthen their sense of history, aesthetics, and civic pride by forever connecting Tiffany’s artistic legacy with the story of New London.

For more information or to request images, please contact Rebecca Marsie at 860.443.2545, ext. 112 or at marsie@lymanallyn.org.

About the Lyman Allyn Art Museum
Lyman Allyn Art Museum is a distinguished art museum located in New London, Connecticut.  Founded in 1932 by Harriet Upson Allyn in memory of her father, Lyman Allyn, the museum serves the people of Southeastern Connecticut and general admission is always free to New London residents. Housed in a handsome Neo-Classical building designed by Charles A. Platt, the permanent collection includes over 10,000 objects from ancient times to the present: artworks from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and Europe, with particularly strong collections of American paintings, decorative arts, and Victorian toys and doll houses.

The museum is located at 625 Williams Street, New London, Connecticut, exit 83 off I-95.  The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sundays 1:00 – 5:00 pm; closed Mondays and major holidays. For more information call 860.443.2545, ext. 129 or visit us on Facebook or the web at: www.lymanallyn.org.

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William McCamment
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