Collectors' Guide: The 4 Distinct Styles Of Tiffany Lamps
Louis Comfort Tiffany incorporated the "Tiffany Glass Company" in 1885, which in 1892 was renamed The "Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company" and then, in 1900, "Tiffany Studios." At its height, the factory employed more than three hundred workers: designers, artists, glass blowers, and numerous other artisans.
Tiffany's first commercially produced lamps date from around 1898, though some examples were exhibited at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago.
In 1898 the company created a publicity brochure entitled "Tiffany Favrile Glass Lamps," all of which were fuel lamps, and few survive today. Later that year, Tiffany’s glass works began to produce electric lamps, exhibiting one such example in the Paris Salon that year. Lamps previously designed for fuel use were marketed as “Oil or Electric.” Electric lamps eliminated the need for bulky fuel containers and slender bases could now be made to support the shade, such as the popular Favrile Lily Light design. By the next year, Tiffany had also begun producing leaded glass shades in earnest.
The majority of the leaded lamp shades produced at Tiffany Studios were made using essentially the same techniques used to create their famous stained-glass windows. First, a detailed sketch was created of the design, often several sketches were needed to capture the complexity of a design in full. Then a fan shaped water color was created to translate a three-dimensional form into two dimensions. Often a design was repeated around the shade, in certain instances, such as the Poinsettia chandelier in which each flower and background segment are unique. The design was then transferred to a wooden mold. Brass templates were made for every piece in the design and were used as a guide when the glass selectors or colorists choose glass for each design, based on color, texture, and pattern. These technicians were mostly women, as Tiffany believed they had a superior sense of color, especially when dealing with floral designs. Once each piece of glass was selected and cut to shape, it was wrapped in a thin piece of copper foil cut wide enough to cover the edge of the glass and slightly overlap on the sides. The foiled pieces were placed on the wooden mold and soldered together, then a heavy rounded coating of solder was applied to strengthen the lines and create a finished look. This was how the distinctive “lead” lines were created on the leaded glass shades.
As the popularity of the shades grew, many designs were produced in mass. Once a basic design had been established, variation could be introduced with variety in the color palette and type of glass used, as well as variations in the base. Custom-made lighting was also available, though the process was more time-consuming, a fact that was reflected in the final price. Leaded glass shades could be “coned” or “doomed” the majority were finished on the bottom with sturdy brass rings at the top and bottom securing the stability of the shade. However “irregular” border shades, as seen in shades such as the “Dragonfly” or the famous “Wisteria” could also be created. These designs took careful planning and skill to secure the bottom edges of the lamp and maintain the structural integrity of the shade. As with irregular borders, the tops of the shades could also differ from the standard brass ring opening, employing such techniques as filigree and branching. Filigree, brass pieces with interior cut outs forming a design, could be applied to the interior or exterior of a glass shade to create a shadowed look that selectively blocked light from the bulb, as in the “Poppy” and “Dragonfly” shades.
We are delighted to offer an incredibly wide assortment of authentic Tiffany Studios New York lamps that represent different time periods in which Louis Comfort Tiffany experimented with different types of glass, silhouettes, and color ways. The four distinct categories we specialize in are Floral, Geometric, Damascene, and Lily:
The “Floral” group from Louis Comfort Tiffany is a combination or blend of both geometric and floral shades. It typically includes globe-shaped shades of basic geometric design with added floral, vine, and leaf motifs. Floral motifs that are favored by Tiffany include tulips, peonies, dogwood, poppies, daffodils, nasturtiums, and crocuses. The floral group is divided into two categories which are the shades with scattered floral or leaf patterns all over on geometric backgrounds, and the geometric shades with borders, called "belts" of flowers and vines. The latter shades are called "belted" floral shades.
Louis Comfort Tiffany's “Geometric” glass shades are a group of leaded glass shades with the simplest designs, including mostly standard shapes such as squares, triangles, rectangles and ovals, used on cone, panel glass, and globe-shaped shades. Unlike his "Damascene" shades, Tiffany's geometric shades were made from pieces of poured glass which were cut in segments and edged with copper foil, then soldered together. A patina bronze finish or "rinse" was applied to the lead or solder lines to blend in well. Tiffany's geometric group can be split into two types: shades made from a limited number of large glass pieces, such as the famous and much sought after "turtleback tiles," and shades made from a large number of small glass pieces.
In 1895, the first Tiffany Studios New York lamp shades, made of blown glass, were available for sale. These earliest-blown glass shades are often called “Damascene” shades, due to their wave iridescent decoration, also known as "Dychroide" glass. Of particular note is the complexity of the iridization in these lamp shades that use two distinct metallic oxides applied in two different techniques. An innovation by Arthur J. Nash, production manager at the Tiffany Furnaces, “Dychroide” glass was first iridized then blown, creating a high luster and an added depth to each piece. These shades were also frequently combed, evenly raked through the semi-molten glass, to create a final wave pattern.
The fetching “Lily” lamps from Tiffany Studios New York are made visually interesting by the unusual decision to fashion a downward-facing bloom, giving off warm halos of light cascading to the floor in the room they occupy, rather than the ceiling, seemingly coming alive with the addition of light. The “Lily” lamps usually mark the combination of two of Tiffany's favorite floral motifs, the pond lily, and the morning glory. Ths shades traditionally take the form of morning glories, of which Louis Comfort Tiffany made many water-color paintings, entranced by their polychromatic brilliance and trumpet-like bloom. Typically paired with “Pond Lily" bases, these patinated bronze bases are sculptures in their own right, modeled after the lilies at Laurelton Hall, Louis Comfort Tiffany's Long Island garden estate. There, Tiffany cultivated the Latour-Marliac Lily, the world's first colored water-lilies. It was these very same lilies that inspired the likes of Claude Monet in his famous water-lily series.