But it was the combination of the electric light bulb and Tiffany’s colorful and uniquely-shaped leaded lampshades that made his Tiffany lamps such a huge success then and a hugely valuable collector’s item today.
Color is to the eye as music to the ear. —Louis C. Tiffany
Louis Comfort Tiffany
The son of Charles Tiffany, the famous jeweler and founder of Tiffany & Co., and his wife Harriet, Louis Tiffany was born in New York City in 1848. He attended Eagleswood Military Academy and before following his dreams of becoming an artist. After studying with a private tutor in New York City, he went on to Europe to focus on painting. When he returned home in the mid-1870s, he enrolled in New York’s National Academy of Design where he started to experiment with stained glass. These experiments lead to a lifelong passion for the use of glassware in art.
In 1878 he co-founded a glass-making company, but when disagreements between Tiffany and his partners arose, the business closed in the mid-1880s. He then started his own firm, which would eventually be called Tiffany Studios. The first Tiffany lamp was created around 1895.
What is a Tiffany Lamp?
Although the term “Tiffany Lamp” is often used to refer to any stained leaded glass lamp, only those lamps with a glass shade that was made with glass designed by Louis Tiffany and his design studio are original Tiffany Lamps.
Each lamp designed by Tiffany Studios was handmade by skilled craftsmen. The lamps were never mass-produced or machine made. For more than 100 years, Louis Tiffany was thought to have been the designer of the lamps produced. But in 2007 Clara Driscoll was identified as the master designer of the most creative (and most valuable) of the leaded glass lamps to come out of Tiffany Studios.
Often considered as works of art today, Tiffany lamps were made in six basic styles: table, floor, desk, chandelier, wall sconce, and hanging shade.
Types or Groups of Tiffany Lamp Shades
Categories of Tiffany Lamps include: Favrile, Geometric, Floral, Cone Shaped, Globe Shaped, Irregular Lower Border and Irregular Upper & Lower Borders. Each category of lampshade design has it’s own distinctive elements or traits.
The term Favrile (which means handcrafted) was a name trademarked by Tiffany to describe how his shades were produced. It’s now associated with the first and most simple shades made by Tiffany.
Geometric leaded glass shades have simple designs in square, triangle, rectangles and oval shapes. Tiffany’s geometric designs were made from pieces of poured glass that were cut into segments, edged with copper foil and then soldered together to complete the final shape. This group included two types of shades: those made from a smaller number of large pieces of glass, and those made from a large number of small glass pieces. One of the most sought after type of shade in this group is the “turtleback tiles” shade pictured below.
The floral group includes globe-shaped shades of geometric design with the addition of floral, leaf and vine patterns. The floral group includes shades that have a scattered leaf or floral pattern over the geometric background, and the “belted” floral shade which has a geometric shade that features a border of flowers and vines.
Cone shades are basically straight-sided with circular rims. Because they were much easier to make than leaded shades with curved sides, there are a larger number of this shape of Tiffany shade around today. One of the most desirable designs of this group is the dragonfly pattern.
Compared to cone shaped shades, the simpler, flowered globe shaped shades were more intricate and harder to make. The dome shape allowed the artist to more fully realize the floral or insect designs that were used on this shape of lamp shade. Ranging in size from twelve to twenty-eight inches, this shape was always used for large Tiffany floor lamps.
Irregular Lower Border shades have a more natural for their beautifully meandering, irregular lower border. Most all of the shades that have irregular lower border are globe shaped.
The most sophisticated and complex leaded shade shapes created by Tiffany Studios is in the irregular upper and lower borders group. Replacing the usual straight edge of the top shade opening is an openwork crown that is made to look like tree branches. Instead of having finials at the top, the light and heat from the bulb are vented out through the top crown. The “Wisteria” pattern lamp shade is a good example of this group of Tiffany lamps and is one of the most sought after of all designs ever produced by Tiffany.
An original Tiffany lamp, especially those made between the 1890s and 1930s when Louis Tiffany was still active in Tiffany Studios can be valued anywhere from $4,000 to over $1 million. The most ever paid for an original was $2.8 million in 1997 at a Christie's auction. Lamps have been sold privately at much higher prices.
Most of us can only hope to invest in a “Tiffany-style” lamp. Tiffany-style lamps are made by the same technique as Tiffany studios, but the lamps are totally new designs crafted by different artists. Tiffany-style lamps start at around $100 and go to as much as $5,000 depending on quality and size. They’re a beautiful way to add color and class to your decor!
House of Andala Lamp Shoppe has a huge selection of Tiffany-style lamps in our store, and in most of the shapes and types of lamps described. Stop by to shop soon!