Tiffany-style lamps—still tremendously popular more than 100 years after their invention—are widely manufactured today and easy to find. It’s much more rare to come across a leaded-glass lamp that was actually made by Louis Comfort Tiffany or produced by his Tiffany Studios, which closed a few years after his death in 1933. These original pieces, once made for America’s wealthy elite, go for tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

While modern artisans are getting closer and closer to cracking Tiffany’s secrets, none of them have been able to replicate the level of craftsmanship put into antique Tiffany lamps. There are many reasons for this. For one, at his studios, Tiffany assembled a dream team of artists, craftsmen, and inventors, including noted British chemist Arthur J. Nash. Tiffany also insisted on using only the highest-quality materials—for example, all Tiffany lamp bases were made of bronze.

Secondly, Tiffany, like his competitor John LaFarge, developed innovative glassmaking techniques. By adding certain metallic compounds to molten glass, he was able to achieve a unique iridescent sheen. To create another stunning effect, Tiffany would add as many as seven colors to the hot glass so that one piece would possess multiple hues without having been painted. Lastly, he employed copper foil to fuse the stained glass pieces together in even more delicate lines than had ever been created with lead.

All of this resulted in lamps as complex and breathtaking as the flowering plants that inspired them, with twisting branches, tiny, flowing leaves, and vibrant petals that gleamed like clusters of jewels. At the time they were made, they were considered luxury items, art pieces that also served a functional purpose in home decor.

The son of fine jewelry merchant Charles Lewis Tiffany, founder of the famed Tiffany and Co., the younger Tiffany abandoned the family business to study under landscape painter George Inness. Even though the budding artist was on his way to a successful painting career, he became captivated by stained glass as a medium. In 1879, he started making windows for the homes of his father’s wealthy friends. Employing organic shapes and sinewy lines, these windows embodied the aesthetic of the emerging Art Nouveau movement.

Tiffany’s earliest experiments with lighting began when he was decorating New York’s Lyceum Theatre in 1885. The first electrical lights ever used on a stage were being installed by inventor Thomas Edison himself. There, Tiffany created the ceiling chandelier and the sconces, described as “fire in monster emeralds.”

His earliest lamps, though, from 1876 and 1879, were kerosene-burners with blown-glass shades, bearing no resemblance to his windows. It wasn’t until 1898 that Tiffany introduced his trademark lamp, featuring a bronze base and stained-glass shade. By 1906, his Tiffany Studios offered more than 400 oil and electric lamps...

Around the same period, Tiffany was making vases, paperweights, and other art-glass objects using his own handblown-glass techniques. He dubbed his work Favrile in 1894 after the old English word “fabrile,” meaning “handmade” or “fabricated.” He also experimented with millefiori, an ancient technique wherein rods of color glass are fused together, usually in the shape of flowers, and then sliced to make patterns.

Some of Tiffany Studios’ most iconic lamp designs include the dragonfly, wisteria, the Tyler scroll, nautilus (shaped like a snail), and lily, with lily-pad bases. While Tiffany gets the credit, many women, known as “The Tiffany Girls,” worked for him as designers, and some, like Clara Driscoll, likely designed many of his admired floral lamps.

Tiffany lamps made after 1902 have the model number stamped on their base or base plate. When the shade has a different number, it is stamped into the metal on the inside of the bottom edge. All in all, the studios produced more than 500 designs for lamp bases and another 500-plus designs for shades.

While Tiffany-style lamps fell out of fashion in the 1920s and '30s, when hard geometric lines of Art Deco became all the rage, they saw a resurgence in popularity after World War II. Over the past 40 years, more and more companies have dedicated themselves to reproducing the elegant, intricate lamp style of Tiffany Studios.

Many of these lamp makers put the word Tiffany right in their business name. These include Dale Tiffany, Meyda Tiffany, and Paul Sahlin Tiffany’s. Thus, “tiffany” is a now generic term for a stained-glass light fixture, which is applied to light shades made for bars, restaurants, soda advertising, and pool tables—none of which were ever produced by Tiffany Studios.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Neustadt Tiffany Collection

Neustadt Tiffany Collection

This stunning gallery of 138 Tiffany lamps and lampshades, part of the Dr. Egon Neustadt Collection presented by th… [read review or visit site]

The Lampworks

The Lampworks

Lamp collector and dealer Dan Edminster has put together an incredible reference site on antique lamps and related … [read review or visit site]

Modernism

Modernism

This archived overview produced by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts offers thumbnail sketches of the design moveme… [read review or visit site]

Texans Incorporated: The History of a Lamp Company

Texans Incorporated: The History of a Lamp Company

Mark Stevens has created an impressive living memorial to Texans Inc., a 20th century Texas manufacturer of ceramic… [read review or visit site]

The Lamps of H. G. McFaddin

The Lamps of H. G. McFaddin

Bruce Bleier's tribute to the Emeralite and Bellova lampshades made from Czech glass and popularized and distribute… [read review or visit site]

Fairy Lamp Club

Fairy Lamp Club

This incredible site is a stunning showcase for Victorian and contemporary fairy lamps, a style of lamp with a glas… [read review or visit site]

Gas Pressure Lanterns, Lamps and Stoves

Gas Pressure Lanterns, Lamps and Stoves

Terry Marsh’s beautiful showcase of gas-pressure lanterns, lamps, stoves, irons, and heaters from the 1920s o… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Tiffany Studios Lamp Base For Favrile Steuben Damascene Art Glass Leaded ShadeTiffany Studios Favrile Steuben Damascene Art Glass Lamp Shade NrAntique Tiffany Studios Gilt Bronze 15" Lamp Base OnlyArts & Crafts Bronze Early Electric Hanging Lamp Part Attrb Tiffany StudiosTiffany-style 24" Jackie Stained Glass Dome Shaped Table Lamp NewTiffany-style Hampstead Stained Glass Table Lamp With Mosaic Base NewTiffany-style Pond Lily Stained Glass Table Lamp NewMeyda Tiffany Stained Glass Slag Glass Lamp Shade Roses SignedTiffany-style Stained Glass Rockin' Rooster Double Lit Table Lamp NewTiffany-style 27" Vivaldi Stained Glass Orb Table Lamp NewBradley Hubbard Arts Crafts Mission Slag Glass Handel Tiffany Studios Era LampPittsburgh Reverse Painted Lamp-handel Tiffany Miller Arts Crafts Era Phoenix Tiffany Studios Lct Bronze Cypriot Glass Table Lamp Very RarePair Of Palm Tree Tiffany Style Leaded Stained Glass Lamp No Reserve! Nr! Tiffany-style 64" French Baroque Stained Glass Floor Lamp Multi-color NewAntique Motorbike Or Bicycle Lamp With Mounting Bracket & Tiffany Marker LightTiffany-style 26" Songbird Sunrise Double Lit Stained Glass Table Lamp NewTiffany-style Crimson Blossoms Stained Glass Ewer Accent Lamp Multi-color NewTiffany-style 21.5" Stained Glass Parisian Table Lamp W/ Hexagon Base NewTiffany-style Dragonfly Lily Table Lamp Multi NewTiffany-style Stained Glass Cardinal Accent Lamp NewTiffany-style "harmony" 14" Pedestal Lamp NewTiffany-style Rainforest Double Lit Accent Lamp NewTiffany-style Fleur-de-lis Stained Glass Pedestal Accent Lamp Multi-color NewTiffany-style Parisian Table Lamp With Eiffel Tower Base Multi-color NewTiffany-style 24.5" Harmony Rose Stained Glass Table Lamp Multi NewTiffany-style 20" Stained Glass 'crystal Lace' Double Lit Table Lamp Pink NewTiffany-style 20.25" Swirling Peacock Double Lit Table Lamp Multi NewAntique Tiffany Style Lamp Shade Stained Glass Leaded Cherub Blue TulipTiffany-style "aurora" Table Lamp NewTiffany Table Lamp By Quoizel List $810 Light Bronze Stained Glass Mosaic Tiffany-style Laburnum Dreams Table Lamp Multi NewTiffany-style Corrista Stained Glass Double Lit Table Lamp Ivory NewA Tiffany Style LampTiffany-style Choice Of Constance Double Lit Turtleback Table Lamp Emerald NewLamp Shade Tiffany Mission Style Stained Glass Art Decor Quoizel Collectables(2) New Bodo Hennig Doll House Furniture Blue Tiffany Style Table Lamp 6340New Bodo Hennig Doll House Furniture Yellow Tiffany Style Table Lamp 6342Tiffany-style Turtle Accent Lamp Green NewDollhouse Mini Miniature Tiny Tiffany Style Floor Lamp Hanging Lightbulb 4 1/2"Tiffany Stained Glass By Quoizel Light List $550 Mini Pendant 3 Lamp Tfcs1510vbMack Truck Lamp W/plastic Tiffany Style Shade-worksDollhouse Mini Miniature Tiny Tiffany Style Table Lamp Lightbulb 2" Gold DollCoca Cola Tiffany Style Antique Motif Tea Light Candle Lamp With ShadeTiffany-style Orb Dragonfly Stained Glass Table Lamp Multi-color NewTiffany Style Stained Glass Table Lamp "azure Sea" W/ 20" ShadeTiffany-style Choice Of Constance Double Lit Turtleback Table Lamp Scarlet NewTiffany-style Choice Of Constance Double Lit Turtleback Table Lamp Ivory NewDale Tiffany Lily Tiffany Style LampTurtle Tiffany Style Accent LampVery Nice Hand Made Tiffany Lamp ShadeAmbers 7" Brazilian Hawaiian Pineapple Pine Apple Tiffany Desk Lamp Nightstand Tiffany Mosaic Lamp Post Light List $690 By Quoizel Stained Glass OutdoorStained Glass Tiffany Style LampNew Tiffany-style Stained Glass Table Lamp 16" Shade 24" HeightTiffany Style Stained Glass Wall Lamp Shade 1/2 ShadeTiffany Stained Glass Style Butterfly Desk Night Light Lamp ~ Very Colorful!Coca Cola Tiffany Style Antique Motif Tea Light Candle Lamp With Shade1/12 Dollhouse Lighting White Tiffany Shade Desk Light Miniature Table Lamp Pittsburg Pristine Reverse Pained Lamp- Handel Tiffany Slag Leaded Art Craft Era