There’s a reason why many people love to decorate their homes with antiques—they add a sense of character and history to an otherwise modern setting. We’ve seen certain styles of antiques fall in and out of fashion, but one item that’s having a moment right now is the Tiffany glass lamp.
“Tiffany lamps are among the best examples of arts and crafts decor ever produced in America,” says Beverly Solomon of the eponymous design firm.
But is this colored wonder just a flash in the pan, or is it worth investing in one of your own? Some would posit that Tiffany lamps are truly dated decor pieces, while others believe these ornate accessories can be a beautiful addition to your home.
Below, we offer a primer on Tiffany lamps, including the history of these special lights, how to style them in your own space, and how to spot a real from a fake.
Tiffany lamp history
The Tiffany name is big in this country, thanks to the jeweler known for its signature robin’s-egg blue boxes. But Tiffany lamps do not fall under the umbrella of this house of bling, which was founded by Charles Tiffany. Instead, his son, Louis Comfort Tiffany, who was a painter and interior decorator, started the lamp company, producing the first iterations in 1895. For four decades, Tiffany lamps were produced in Queens, NY, by artisans from around the world. The designs were given various romantic names such as Wisteria and Dragonfly.
The popularity of Tiffany lamps waned around 1913 but then came back in style in the 1950s. Reproductions later flooded the market in the 1970s, which is why today you’ll spy a bunch of fakes in chain restaurants and Americana-themed hotels across the nation.
Tiffany lamps complement ‘grandmillennial’ decor
Tiffany lamps are a current topic of conversation thanks in large part to the white-hot trend called “grandmillennial” style. This throwback decor scheme heralds embroidery, wallpaper, wicker pieces, and florals—and a colorful antique Tiffany lamp fits right in with that look.
What makes a Tiffany lamp?
Because of its unique design, a Tiffany lamp is easy to spot.
“The lampshades are made from colored mosaic glass with a base of metal that usually looks like antique brass,” says Darla DeMorrow of HeartWork Organizing. Sometimes they’ll sport two lightbulbs with two pull chains, though. Due to the intricate glass design, they don’t throw much light.
Tiffany lamps are often associated with Craftsman homes as they have a similar handmade quality that was popular in the first few decades of the 1900s.
“Today’s reproductions [of Tiffany lamps] are often seen in bars and restaurants as overhead lighting or hanging above pool tables,” says DeMorrow.
Real vs. fake Tiffany lamps
The real deal is hard to find and even harder to afford.
“The true Tiffany brand is an expensive collector’s item that’s out of reach of most homeowners. It’s more likely something you’d see on ‘Antiques Roadshow,’ rather than in a store or even in thrift shops,” she says.
Tiffany lamps were made more than a hundred years ago and genuine pieces can cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to one million.
To identify an authentic Tiffany lamp, let a pro weigh in. The pro will check for patina, the leading around the glass, the quality of the base (it’s typically very heavy), and, of course, the type and quality of the glass used in the design.
Tiffany lamps in the home
Still want the Tiffany look in your own home but don’t want to shell out a small fortune?
“You can find Victorian, vintage glass or arts and crafts lamps online that’ll appear very similar,” says DeMorrow. As you shop, consider your home’s palette and the pieces you already own.
These lights can be bursting with color and intricate designs, so they’ll look best when balanced with a warm, neutral color palette.
Site it right
Tiffany lamps are heavy thanks to their glass dome and solid bottom. Your best bet is to place it on a stable surface like a piano or on a side table tucked into a reading nook.
And since this lamp is better for ambiance than for reading by, adding extra layers of light is smart.
“You’ll need supporting lights overhead and more table or floor lamps in a large room,” DeMorrow says.