Tiffany lamps are admired by the masses and sought by collectors. Unfortunately, many false reproductions circulate the market that can even fool the experts. Whether you want to know if your lamp is genuine Tiffany, fancy yourself an armchair appraiser or these beautiful lamps have simply peaked your interest, this article will introduce you to their most notable features and offer tips to help identify a fake.
General Tiffany Lamp Characteristics
Get familiar with the six main types of lamps: floor, desk, hanging shade, wall sconce, table and chandelier. Most traditional lamps have brown-brown-green patinated bases, but some showcase silky, opulent dore patinated bases. Fat hollow bases usually held liquid for fuel-burning lamps before electric lamps became common.
Know that the first and simplest Tiffany lamps use favrile glass. The term "favrile" stands for "handcrafted" and incorporates leaded, blown and stained glass in a hollow shade.
Look for the geometric patterned shades with pieces of leaded glass in common shapes like squares, ovals and triangles. The pieces are arranged on cone, panel glass and globe-shaped shades. Geometric shades boast either a smaller number of large pieces of glass or greater number of small pieces.
Recognize floral pattern shades that blend floral, vine, leaf and geometric elements. Floral designs come in two styles. Lamps with the "belted" style have a floral band across the base of an otherwise geometric shade while other lamps have an all-over floral design.
Tiffany Lamp Shade Shapes
Identify cone-shaped lamp shades which top most Tiffany lamps. Cone shades usually wear a floral pattern along straight sides but often feature dragonfly decorations.
Find that floor lamps always wear the globe shape, usually extending from 12 to 18 inches in diameter with enough room to depict full scenes on the glass.
Recognize bordered lampshades. The irregularly-bottomed border usually occurs in globe shaped shades and features a scalloped or curved design along the shade rim. On the most luxurious and collector-sought shades, both the top and bottom undulate into waves or other designs such as curling branches and petals.
Look for old dirt in the cracks. Even the most diligent dusting leaves some dirt behind. Appraisers can distinguish between 100-year old dirt and new dirt masquerading as old.
Ignore stamps and engravings on the lamp base. Many reproductions plagiarize the Tiffany name in engravings that may be virtually impossible to distinguish from the genuine article.
Have a Tiffany expert appraise the lamp.