Louis Comfort Tiffany History

Tiffany stained glass historyarticle by Jim Hoyle

1848: He was born into the very wealthy family of Charles Lewis of the Tiffany & Company of New York City (jewelry and silverware). This helped set the stage and to propel his business and his career.
1875—1878: He worked at several glass companies in Brooklyn.
1879: He and other artists formed Louis Comfort Tiffany and Associated American Artists.
1885: He started his own glassmaking firm in which led to the demise of the Associated American Artists. Tiffany Glass Company was officially established in December 1885. It was later renamed Tiffany Studios in 1902. His company made lamps, windows, doors, jewelry, metalwork, ceramics, blown glass mosaics, etc.
His main competitors were fellow artists and glassmakers John La Farge, Oliver Kimberly and Frank Duffner of The The Duffner and Kimberly Company. Tiffany, La Farge, and Kimberly had all worked at the same glasshouses in Brooklyn from 1875 to 1878. Subsequently there were many other artists who became proficient in this style of glass work.
1893: He built a new factory, called the Stourbridge Glass Company and later called Tiffany Glass Furnaces, which was located in Queens, New York. His work was exhibited at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. This provided a worldwide platform for his unique products which further promoted his business.
1894: He introduced the term, Favrile glass (hand made) at his new glass factory and later trademarked the term in 1894. He would later use this term for all his work in glass, ceramic and enamel.
1895: His first commercially produced lamps date from around 1895. Much of his company's production was in making stained glass windows and lamps but his company designed a complete range of interior decorations. At its peak, his factory employed more than 300 artisans.
1905: He designed his own 84 room house, Laurelton in Oyster Bay, Long Island and furnished it with many of his works.
1932: Tiffany Studios closed for business.
1933: He died.
1949: Laurelton Hall and 60 acres of land were donated to his foundation for art students.
1957: Laurelton Hall was destroyed by a fire.

Many people attribute the popular stained glass artwork style found in lamps, windows, panels, doors and other items to this iconic artist. He was an American designer whose name is synonymous with the Art Nouveau era. He was also a painter and interior decorator. He designed stained glass windows and lamps, glass mosaics, blown glass, ceramics, jewelry, enamels and metalwork. He used and promoted the copper foil method of stained glass construction that is so popular today. He is widely credited for the popularity of this method and it carries his name.

It may be very surprising to many, but stained glass artwork has a much longer and relatively unknown history. Stained glass panels have been found that are nearly 2,000 years old. Single stained glass panels were discovered in the remains of ancient Pompeii. Pompeii was destroyed in a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius around 79 A.D. Many of the artifacts that were found in the ruins of Pompeii are in museums throughout the world especially in Naples, Italy. Stained glass artwork like we are familiar with was used in religious settings as early as 11 A.D. in Europe.

Thanks to Louis Comfort Tiffany for his outstanding quality and beautiful works of art and for refining and popularizing this ancient method of stained glass artwork that is world renowned today.

It has long been a common practice to match and switch glass lamp shades to various lamp bases that were not the original. Another common practice has been to place an unsigned shade on a signed lamp base and pass the entire lamp off as a "Tiffany". Many if not most lamps and shades are referred to as Tiffany lamps simply because the style is similar to that of an original lamp. Many antique lamps exhibiting the correct makers mark are fake especially stained glass styles.

Experts agree that most lamps called bearing his name were not actually made by him. This will continue to be an ongoing issue which all sellers and buyers must be made aware. Knowledgeable collectors are already very aware of this. There are many lamps that are signed but that are not authentic. Identification of leaded lamps is a subjective process that few people are qualified to do. You will find that an original lamp and shade with correct markings, attributes and documentation commands a very premium price as compared to any lamp that looks like or that is "attributed to Tiffany".

Authentic Tiffany lamps commonly sell for many tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars. One particular one sold for over 2.8 million dollars.

A particular one has sold for over $ 2,000,000, so you may want to hold onto that old lamp your mother gave you !

See World's Most Expensive Lamp
For an appraisal of your lamp see: Lamp Appraisals Plus Lamp Identification and History

* I have personally inspected and appraised stained glass lamps which prominently exhibit fake Tiffany markings. These markings appear completely correct to the untrained eye. One should be aware that production of fake Tiffany lamps and fake markings is prolific and that this is an ongoing process.