Skinner Inc.

Auctioneers and Appraisers of Objects of Value

How to Recognize Quality in Tiffany and Mosaic Glass Lamps

Tiffany Studios Pomegranate Table Lamp (Lot 10, Estimate $8,000-$12,000)

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.

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.

5 tips for looking at mosaic glass lamps

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.

1. Look for hairline cracks in the glass.

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.

2. Pay attention to glass color.

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.

3. Pick up the base and feel the weight.

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.

4. Step back and gauge the overall design.

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.

5. Talk to a reputable dealer, appraiser, or auction house.

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.

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.

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.

Tiffany Studios Black-eyed Susan Mosiac Glass Table Lamp (Lot 46, Estimate $20,000-$30,000)

Mosaic Glass Table Lamp Attributed to Duffner & Kimberly (Lot 30, Estimate $2,500-$3,500)

Tiffany Studios Louis XVI Desk Lamp with Acorn Shade (Lot 20, Estimate $6,000-$8,000)

Mosaic Glass Magnolia Table Lamp Attributed to Wilkinson (Lot 15, Estimate $2,500-$3,500)

Further Reading

Mosaic Shades Volume II by Paul Crist (Paul Crist Studios, Santa Fe Springs, California, 2005)

20 thoughts on “How to Recognize Quality in Tiffany and Mosaic Glass Lamps

  1. Pingback: The Value of Mosaic Glass | Antique Tiffany Lamps | Duffner & Kimberly | Gorham | Skinner Inc.

  2. Do the Wilson, or Duffner & Kimberly, lamps have “Tiffany” labels or marks in the shades or bodies? Do obvious counterfeits carry phony labels?

    • Thanks for your inquiry. Because Tiffany lamps – when they are right – can be very valuable, there are people who might add a spurious Tiffany Studios label to a lamp shade or base by another maker, such as Wilkinson or Duffner & Kimberly in an attempt to increase the lamp’s value. Sometimes it can be easy to spot a fake label or mark, but more sophisticated forgeries can be harder to identify. If you have questions about a lamp or its label we would recommend seeking an expert appraiser’s opinion.

  3. I have a beautiful stained glass hanging shade which would be used over a dining or kitchen table. I have had it for 40 years and it was old when I received it. It has beautiful green leaves, dark red grape bunches and a gold back ground. Is there a way I could tell the value? It is quite large and heavy. Thanks.

  4. I have another question . Did tiffany light sockets always sort of curve towards each other? In other words did the sockets ever slant straight down? I hope you know what I mean. Thanks

    • No, the design for each lamp determined the direction. I would go to the library or bookstore and get a good book on Tiffany Lighting. Most period books are out of print, so you could try a used bookstore. Learning about the components of Tiffany lamps requires seeing all the models they produced and creating a check list for each model. It’s much more complicated than other mosaic glass makers and more lucrative to fake. In summary, the answers cannot come with a single response to each question; the lamp must be observed as a whole.

        • I do not know of any reputable dealers in your area who specialize in lighting.

          If you are trying to find out about a specific lamp, we may be able to help. Please take photos of shade, base, and cluster sockets. Note the diameter of the shade. Please note markings on the shade and base and provide photos of those as well and send everything to 20thCentury@skinnerinc.com. We can see if we can assist from the information.

  5. We have a large early 1900s vintage floor lamp shade 24″ from side to side. It has 6 sides and looks like the tiffany style but not bright different colors. It also has decorative metal work on the sides. I live in Monroe, North Carolina and need to know the address of a dealer who would know the value of this piece. Thanks, Nancy

  6. my mother in law recently moved and had an old glass chandelier that was removed from another relative’s house many years ago. we live in an old house so she thought we might want to use it to keep it in the family. unfortunately while showing it to my wife, she forgot about the chain and it fell breaking two of the curved glass panes. It’s about 23″ across with white and “orange” streaked glass. i can’t find any markings on it and the wife is interested in finding out what it is and if it is possible to fix it without breaking the bank. any help would be appreciated. i would be glad to upload pictures to someone.

  7. I received as gift a Tiffany Style Night-table-lamp-shade only.
    Now I have a project to do: Where can I search for the lamp-base and the round cap.

    Thank you for all your help.

    Peter

    • Vazeem,
      You need to know where the tiles came from and determine the quality of the glass. On unsigned pieces, determining quality requires developing your eye by looking at correctly documented pieces and making a comparison. This is not a skill that is quickly learned.

  8. I emailed some pictures of a lamp I found in my grammas house. Inside the shade is attached what looks like a metal piece. Did Tiffany label their lamps in this fashion? If you receive my email the pic of the metal piece is blurry a bit so I couldn’t read it. I did see a hairline crack on the inside of the shade. The base is very heavy. Thank you for any help you can afford me.

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