Other than the humble candle, the Tiffany Lamp is probably the most well-known and most instantly recognisable piece of lighting in the world. The classic Tiffany Lamp was originally part of the Art Nouveau movement, which inspired the art world between 1980 and 1910.
The lamp itself is symbolised by a glass shade, in often a multitude of stunning colours. It was made famous by its stained leaded glass lamp that was showcased at the World’s Columbian Expo, held in Chicago in 1893.
Tiffany lamps originated from the work done by Louis Comfort Tiffany, an American designer and artist who was best known, at the time, for his stained glass windows. Tiffany started out as a painter, but soon became interested in glassmaking. After various careers which saw him work as an interior designer and designed wallpaper, furniture and textiles, a commission to redesign parts of the White House before President Arthur moved into office, cemented his reputation. He introduced his Tiffany glass to light fittings and windows throughout 1600 Pennsylvanian Avenue which lasted until another renovation in 1902.
Whilst there are plenty of imitations available, a genuine Tiffany lamp simply has no comparison. To make a lamp that looks as unique as one from the Tiffany range takes incredible effort, but there is more than just one style. You might believe that they only work in older, more period styles, but that’s not the case. Even the most modern lighting and decor can be be dramatically enhanced with a classic Tiffany lamp.
Most Tiffany lamps, or the shades at least, can be grouped into 7 different categories; upper and lower irregular borders, Favrile, Transition to Flowers, Geometric and finally both Flowered cones and globes. Each of them offers an understated, yet also distinctive, style to any home. When most people think of a classic Tiffany lamp, they will picture the Favrile design.
Favrile means ‘handcrafted’ and identifies the very first lamps Tiffany himself made. The initial lamps even bore his initials, LCT, but they were eventually replaced by the Favrile stamp. If you can find a genuine Tiffany lamp with LCT written on it, you might be sitting on a valuable piece of lighting history.
Many people don’t realise that a true Tiffany lamp is unique because of the, albeit small, differences in the shade. Every lamp is prepared by a versatile manufacturing method known as ‘copper foil’ although, because of the connection to Tiffany lamps, it is also sometimes known as ‘Tiffany’. There is some debate however about who actually originated the method.
The pattern of the Tiffany shade is initially quite low-tech, as you would expect from a design originating from the 1890s. The pattern is drawn out on a piece of heavy-duty cardboard, then a number and a glass colour are assigned to each piece. Once the pattern is complete, glass is laid over and traced into the glass. The glass piece can then be cut and ground to their correct shape before being cleaned, so that the copper foil can be applied to the edges. This foil allows the pieces to adhere to each other, creating the unique shade design that makes Tiffany lamps so distinctive.
Like any piece of furniture, the Tiffany lamp has undergone some high peaks of popularity followed, inevitably, by the troughs when it fell out of favour. Thankfully, we are undergoing an renaissance period at the moment, so there has never been a better time to find a lamp that will suit your home. After all, you can’t hold a candle to a beautiful one-of-a-kind Tiffany lamp.