How to identify a real antique tiffany lamp

Here at The Tiffany Lighting Company we are one of the leading stockists of the elegant and stylish range of reproduction Tiffany lighting. With prices ranging from £35 to £360, we make it affordable for you to bring these coveted Art Nouveau style lamps to your home. Genuine antique Tiffany lighting sells for thousands of pounds, but there are a large number of imitation lamps in circulation which have been known to fool experts and collectors alike.

Tiffany produced a lot of custom-made lamps, so there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to authentication, rather a set of factors which, when combined, indicate the authenticity of a lamp.

Whether you’re looking to buy an antique Tiffany lamp, or have one lurking in your attic that you fancy selling, here are some tips to help you identify whether or not it is the real deal…

The base

The vast majority of Tiffany lamps were made with a bronze base, with a few incredibly rare lamps being made with art pottery bases. If the base of your lamp is made from wood, plastic, brass, or zinc then the chances are it’s a fake.

If your lamp has a bronze base, here are a few ways that you can check its authenticity:

  • Virtually all genuine original Tiffany lamps have a hollow bronze base which contains a heavy ring of lead. Lift the base cap and look for a grey metal ring inside.
  • Over time bronze tarnishes so a thin layer known as a patina was applied to Tiffany lamps to protect the metal, but small colour changes may still appear across the base. Some forgeries do add a fake patina so this is not a complete indication of authenticity.
  • Inspect the knobs on the base as original Tiffany lamps tend to have a turn-paddle knob that operates the lamp, although some will have a pull-chain instead.
  • Tiffany marked their lamps by etching or cutting into the base, but their method and style changed over the years so it’s easy to copy, and this is not a true indication of authenticity.
  • Tiffany used only high quality materials and expert craftsmen, so if the base looks a bit shoddy i.e. with sloppy soldering, it is probably a fake.

The glass

The high quality glass used to make original Tiffany lamps was produced in New York, and the company used a couple of techniques to make the lamps stand out:

  • The lampshade should be cone or globe shaped, and a genuine Tiffany lamp will have a looser, more organic shape than the rigid form of some of the fake reproductions.
  • The design of the shade will typically feature a botanical design, but designs such as dragonflies, spiders, butterflies, peacock feathers, and geometric patterns are also common.
  • Lightly knock on the glass; if it rattles then it is more likely to be authentic. Many of the forgeries feature lampshades that don’t rattle.
  • Tiffany lamps are known for their intense, vibrant colours, and a variety of different textures. Glass containing specks of colour, known as confetti glass, is common in authentic originals.
  • If the lampshade contains any gold glass it should have a translucent amber sheen; if it is greenish or pale gold it is not an original.
  • Dip a cotton bud into some nail varnish remover and rub it over the glass. Some forgeries feature painted glass, instead of Tiffany’s traditional method of embedding colour within the glass, so any paint will come off on the cotton bud.

The origins of the lamp

Tiffany lamps are typically acquired through family, either by inheritance or by discovering it in an attic or basement, but some genuine ones do make it to antique shops and estate sales.

If you’ve found what you think to be an authentic original Tiffany lamp in an antique shop, ask the seller to tell you who has previously owned the lamp. If it was owned by the same person for several decades, or came from an estate then the chances are it is real.

The marks and signatures

Tiffany marked most of their lamps with a signature; but they weren’t consistent, so the absence of a signature mark is not always an indicator of a forgery. If the lamp does have a marking on it, you can assess its authenticity by looking for several things:

  • All letters and numerals in the mark should be in a single line and should all be the same height.
  • Forgers sometimes used two different sets of stamps to mark their lamps, which resulted in uneven marking.
  • Some bases were marked with the TGDCO logo and TIFFANY STUDIOS NEW YORK, but if the logo appears without the text it is likely to be a fake.
  • All Tiffany Studios original lamps were marked with capital letters, so if there are any lower case letters in the marking be cautious.
  • The font used in the original Tiffany Studios marking was sans-serif, which means it was without the little tails or hooks that you might find on a font like Times New Roman for example. However, the TGDCO logo did use a serif font.

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