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How to Recognize Quality in Tiffany and Mosaic Glass Lamps

Tiffany Studios Zodiac Turtleback Lamp (Sold for $86,100 on June 21, 2018)

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. Wilkinson made high quality bases, and took short cuts with their shades. 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, saturated, 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 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 Skinner 20th Century Design Department is an excellent resource when it comes to variety of examples of early 20th Century art glass lamps.  For more information or to submit an appraisal request for your antiques, you can email at 20thcentury@skinnerinc.com, call 508-970-3111, or submit your inquiries online: Auction Evaluation Form.

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 collectible mosaic glass 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 Crimson Bouquet Mosaic Glass Hanging Lamp (Sold for $67,650 on June 21, 2018)

Tiffany Studios Acorn Table Lamp with Pottery Base (Sold for $14,760 on December 14, 2017)

Duffner and Kimberly Oriental Poppy Table Lamp (Sold for $18,450 on December 06, 2014)

Wilkinson Poppy Table Lamp (Sold for $3,198 on December 14, 2017)






























Further Reading

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

43 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.


    • 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.

  9. I recently purchased a hanging chandelier that was advertised as a real Tiffany light. Its big,floral and heavy. I Just got it so i havent been able to inspect it. Some of the cabachon glass pieces red have fallen off. Can you use super glue or do you need a special glue?. Even if it is not Tiffany, i love it anyway. I plan to put it over my dining table. What kind of light bulbs do you use? I am sorry if my questions are silly but I really don’t know about this subject. Thank you for your help. When I looked on line for hanging Tiffany lamps all I got was table type lamps. Thanks Kim.

    • 40 watt bulbs. Take it to a lamp restorer. Super glue does not have the correct expansion coefficient. The glue will cause more problems because it will not allow the material to expand and contract with hot and cold temperature fluctuations.

  10. I have a hanging glass lamp that I believe dates to the 1920’s. It came from the house I grew up in, which was built as a summer home for a wealthy family. The lamp is simple in design but has a lovely geometric pattern which complements the chain on which it hangs. Colors are soft white and amber only. The simplicity of the design makes me think it’s not a Tiffany but I would be interested in learning more about it. I live in Vermont now, though the lamp came from a house in Maine. I have no idea where to get more information.

  11. A few years back we lived in Germany and went to a antique fair in Holland and there bought a lamp we thought might be Tiffany. We since figure out Tiffany always has his lamps signed. One antique dealer in the states said the lamp shade is an exact copy of a Lotus lamp but the base is made of onyx and bronze (I think). She said the value needed to be figured out by someone who was familiar with the European antique market but she thought it might be quite valuable. She said that many companies copied Tiffany and made very good lamps. How could I figure out what it is worth by someone who is familiar with the European market on Tiffany type lamps? What companies that you mentioned would make these kind of lamps–exact replicas of the shades and nice/sturdy bases but not the same as Tiffany bases? Thanks Linda

  12. Friend has what appears to be stained glass table lamp. Very heavy, but when thumped sounds like plastic not glass. many colors very close together and the base looks like plastic wood? where can I find out what this is? thank you..

  13. Hello, I’ve two lamps that possibly might be Tiffany lamps. They are from at least the 70’s, and maybe older but that’s hard to investigate for us.
    Can you please mail me so I can send you some pictures.
    Best regards, Marco.

  14. I recently purchased 2 lamps from a thrift store. They are tiffany style. Bronze heavy bases. On is Lily pads. One lamp has a Stamp of C L on the lamp plate. Thats is all I know. Any advice??


  16. Did Tiffany or any of the other lamp shade makers of the time use textured glass that looks black when the shade is off and amber when the light is on? Thanks for you help

  17. I have an art glass lamp with an ornate bronze base that is in excellent shape. Would you be able to help me identify th maker is I sent photographs and measurements? Than you for any consideration.

  18. I have an antique leaded glass lamp shade which I know nothing about, except it has been in our family for many, many years. The glass appears to be slag and the metal appears to have been painted black, however it looks like it may be brass underneath. Can you tell me anything about this lamp. There are no marking to be found.How can I send photos to you?

  19. I recently bought a stained glass shade, mostly cream with purple with almost like butterfly winds around it. It doesn’t have a name that I could find but has this paper label that says Model DA53-029188-187 VO 23. Do you know what that means & who the maker was? Thanks, Betty

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