Louis Comfort Tiffany began making his Tiffany style lamps near the turn of the twentieth century. From there, his lamps have been celebrated for their artistry and craftsmanship, with no two Tiffany lamps being alike.
This means that a real Tiffany lamp comes with a high price tag, anywhere between $10,000 and $2 million. Some sham merchants, however, often try to pass off fake Tiffany lamps for real ones. With several tell-tale tips at your disposal, you can be sure that you’re not ripped off and can tell a real Tiffany lamp and a fake one.
Keep in mind, first off, of the difference between a fake Tiffany lamp and a replica Tiffany lamp. A replica Tiffany floor lamp, chandelier, wall scone and other such Tiffany-inspired glass lamps are often mass-produced, selling for an average of $150 per piece, more or less.
These replica pieces are made by current lamp makers and don’t boast to being actual Tiffany lamps. Fake Tiffany lamps, on the other hand, will claim that their lamps are original, made by the man Tiffany himself. These are the ones to watch out for.
Because no one Tiffany lamp is the same, determining authenticity can be quite a difficult chore. Some real Tiffany lamps aren’t even annotated in a consistent way, with some of them leaving no marks whatsoever. A much easier way to determine authenticity, then, is to look for obvious characteristics of a fake.
- Poor craftsmanship. Check out the quality of the glass and the soldering techniques. If the glass is of low quality and has less than meticulous soldering, then it might be a fake. A base made of pot metal is also a big sign of a fraud.
- Fake antiquing. Wipe your fingers over the glass lamp shade. The dust or grime on the lamp shade could actually be an applied antiquing solution used to make it look authentic and antique. Try soaking a Q-tip with acetone and applying it to the lamp shade’s surface; if additional solution comes off that couldn’t be removed with simple soap and water, then this could very well be the case of a faker. If color gets transferred onto the soaked Q-tip, then it means the glass was leaded with color, and is therefore a fraud.
- No cracks or slight imperfections. You’ll find that real Tiffany lamps will at least have some cracks or loose elements due to its old age. Indeed, over time, heat generated from the light-bulb will inevitably put stress on the glass over time, causing some imperfections or even loose pieces. Gently tapping on a real Tiffany piece will produce a rattle of sorts. It’s rare to see a real Tiffany lamp that is tightly fitted and has no loose pieces or cracks. Granted, this isn’t a certain sign that it’s fake, but it should cause some suspicion.
- Bad makers marks. Some real Tiffany shades include no marks, so not seeing one on a particular lamp shouldn’t raise any red flags. However, uneven makers marks likely should. Whether or not a lamp was marked, all Tiffany-marked lamps will have all letter and numerals at the same height. A fake lamp may utilize two different stamps to make their marks, making them uneven. The bases of Tiffany lamps were usually marked with Tiffany logo, along with Tiffany Studios New York. A logo without a text is a big red flag.
These are just a few of the red flags that should make you suspicious of a merchant’s claim to authenticity. You need not spend anymore money than you have to once you know whether the lamp is real or fake.
Staff Writer: Carolyn Johnson