Louis Comfort Tiffany History
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
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
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
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 !
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.