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Although the quality of workmanship and materials can vary greatly on these lamps, the best lamp bases are well-cast and heavy. Finer lamps will have cast brass or bronze finials, and bronze bases.
It is not unusual for hairline cracks to appear in the panes of old mosaic glass shades. This is the natural result of the glass expanding and contracting as it heats and cools when the lamp is turned on and off. In fact, a lamp that doesn’t have any “stress” or “heat” cracks may be of more recent construction.
Antique Tiffany lamps remain the golden standard of mosaic glass lighting. However, that fact shouldn’t stop us from appreciating the well-designed, hand crafted, beautiful, and very collectable antique mosaic lamps by a wide variety of makers. All mosaic lamps are part of the fascinating story of early 20th century design in a newly electrified America.
The fact that “Tiffany” tends to be synonymous in the American vernacular with “beautiful mosaic glass lighting” is a testament to the legacy of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s vision, and the execution of that vision by the gifted artists and craftsmen and women working at Tiffany Studios. However, not every valuable mosaic glass lamp is a Tiffany, and Tiffany lamps are not the only highly coveted examples of early modern lighting design.
A reputable dealer or auction house will be familiar with these lamps and their attributes and will be happy to help you identify a lamp you own, or learn how to shop for a high quality antique mosaic glass lamp for your home.
This entry was posted in Blog and tagged 20th Century Design, antique tiffany lamp, art nouveau, duffner & kimberly, early modern lighting, gorham, lighting design, mosaic glass lamp, original tiffany lamps, real tiffany lamp, Shannon Ames, tiffany style lamps, tiffany table lamps, value of a tiffany lamp, victorian, wilkinson by Shannon Ames.
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Egyptian Revival Table Lamp Attributed to Gorham (Lot 5, Estimate $1,200-$1,800)
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Mosaic Glass Table Lamp Attributed to Duffner & Kimberly, New York, early 20th century (Lot 41, Estimate $8,000-$12,000)
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Mosaic Glass Table Lamp Attributed to Duffner & Kimberly (Lot 30, Estimate $2,500-$3,500)
Tiffany Studios Black-eyed Susan Mosiac Glass Table Lamp (Lot 46, Estimate $20,000-$30,000)
The new lamps found immediate popularity and financial success despite their relatively exorbitant cost; more people could afford a Tiffany lamp than could afford a Tiffany window. Other lighting manufacturers attempted to recreate the effect of Tiffany mosaics using lead, enameling, metal overlays, and other methods, with mostly mediocre results. As soon as the patent on copper foiling expired, the flood gates opened and the mosaic lamp market in America took off.
Between 1895 and 1915, a huge variety of mosaic glass lamps came out of New York and Chicago to satisfy a growing demand for stylish lighting designs. While Tiffany Studios set the industry standard, other companies produced excellent designs as well.
Look at the colors of the glass; are they subtle, gaudy, bright, or soft? Overall, the colors should match in tone and intensity. If the shade has a “Crayola crayon” look to it – with overly bright, gaudy, or clashing colors – it could be of more recent construction, or have some replaced panes.
The auction previews for the June 22, 2013 Skinner 20th Century Design auction in Boston offer an excellent opportunity to stop by and see a wide variety of examples of early 20th Century art glass lamps up close. Experts will be on hand to answer any questions you have about the pieces.
This large and diverse group of second-tier mosaic glass lamps offered a more affordable alternative to Tiffany lighting at the time, and examples from these manufacturers remain an excellent option today for beginning collectors or casual appreciators of the beauty of mosaic art glass. Some of these lamps may be near equals to Tiffany in their beauty, creativity and quality of construction – yet they often come at a more accessible price.
What image do the words “Tiffany lamp” conjure in your mind’s eye? You probably see a colorful, mosaic glass lamp on a patinated bronze base with a floral or geometric motif, or perhaps some dragonflies.
This entry was posted in Blog and tagged 20th Century Design, antique tiffany lamp, antique tiffany lamps, art nouveau, duffner & kimberly, early modern lighting, gorham, lighting design, mosaic glass lamp, original tiffany lamps, real tiffany lamp, Shannon Ames, tiffany style lamps, tiffany table lamps, value of a tiffany lamp, victorian, wilkinson by Shannon Ames.
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Mosaic Glass Table Lamp Attributed to Unique Art Glass & Metal Co. (Lot 25, Estimate $1,200-$1,500)
Learning how to spot the best lamps could easily take years of study, since many pieces are not signed and the differences are often subtle between a quality lamp from this period and a modern reproduction. You also have to keep an eye out for “made-up” lamps, which are composed of both old and new parts. However, a few tips can help you start to recognize quality lamps.
Mosaic Shades Volume II by Paul Crist (Paul Crist Studios, Santa Fe Springs, California, 2005)
Mosaic Glass Table Lamp Attributed to Duffner & Kimberly (Lot 1, Estimate $2,000-$3,000)
Mosaic glass lamps surged in popularity in the early 20th century in America. Electricity was becoming increasingly common in homes, and people enjoyed the softening effect of the colored glass on the glare of new electric bulbs. Perhaps even more importantly, the lamps had become a trendy status symbol.
The shade and base should not only fit together properly, but there should be an overall sense of balance between all the design elements, from the finial to the base plate. The shades should have some complex elements of design or thoughtful use of color.
Mosaic Glass Magnolia Table Lamp Attributed to Wilkinson (Lot 15, Estimate $2,500-$3,500)
Tiffany Studios Pomegranate Table Lamp (Lot 10, Estimate $8,000-$12,000)
Tiffany Studios Black-eyed Susan Mosiac Glass Table Lamp, Art glass and patinated bronze, New York, early 20th century (Lot 46, Estimate $20,000-$30,000)
Companies such as Duffner & Kimberly and Gorham, aspired to make lamps of a quality on par with Tiffany Studios, and created styles that appealed more to the Victorian taste that, though on its way out, was still the prevailing preference of the American middle and upper middle class. Some companies, like Wilkinson, made high quality bases, and took short cuts with their shades. Others, like Unique, focused on creating complex shades and paired them with simpler bases. Many copied Tiffany’s Art Nouveau designs – in some cases almost to the letter – and many copied each other.
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The Skinner 20th Century Design auction in Boston on June 22, 2013 features a selection of lighting by Tiffany Studios as well as other popular manufacturers of mosaic art glass lamps.
Savvy business people saw an opportunity to profit from the clout of the Tiffany name and the ever-growing population of an aspirational middle class. Lamps made in the style of Tiffany Studios lamps, but with less costly materials and construction, appealed to people who wanted the Tiffany look without the Tiffany price. Companies such as Duffner & Kimberly, Gorham, Wilkinson, and Unique all created mosaic glass lamps, or “electric portables,” of varying quality and in a range of styles, from Victorian to Art Nouveau.
By the 1890s, Tiffany Studios had already established itself as a manufacturer of stunningly beautiful and masterfully executed mosaic leaded glass windows. However, it was the introduction of a new technique to hold cut glass pieces together with copper foil instead of lead that allowed them to expand their mosaic market. The traditional lead came technique used in windows was heavy and brittle, while copper foil allowed for a lighter, more malleable structure that could be built in the three-dimensional shape of a lamp shade. Thanks to patent protection on the new copper foiling technique that lasted until 1903, Tiffany was able to get a strong (and lasting) foot hold in the mosaic glass lamp market.
Tiffany Studios Louis XVI Desk Lamp with Acorn Shade (Lot 20, Estimate $6,000-$8,000)