Tiffany lamps are stained glass or art glass lamps that Tiffany Studios first produced in the late 1800s. These exquisite lamps are highly sought after by collectors and are known for their intricate designs and vibrant colors. Unfortunately, there is a growing market of fake Tiffany lamps being sold as the real thing.
These reproduction lamps are often much cheaper than authentic Tiffany lamps. They are lower quality and do not have the same value as the real thing—by a long shot. Buying a genuine Tiffany lamp is an antique investment you don’t want to take lightly. We can help you start to distinguish between real Tiffany lamps and fake. However, even if you follow all these tips below, you should still consult a professional before dropping thousands on an authentic Tiffany lamp.
Locate hallmarks or tags.
The first thing you should do when evaluating any antique is to look for a maker’s mark. In this case, you’ll search for Tiffany Studios or L.C. Tiffany-Favrile signatures on the lamp’s base. Aside from an engraved hallmark, you should also look for a label or tag on the lamp that indicates it is an original Tiffany lamp. Fake Tiffany lamps may not have any markings at all, or they may have a mark that is not associated with Tiffany Studios.
Inspect the glass.
Tiffany lamps are known for their high-quality, hand-cut glass that is often opalescent or iridescent. This stained glass is soldered together by hand (more on this later). The glass in a fake Tiffany lamp is often of lower quality. It may be machine-cut or have visible seams where the pieces have been joined together. For really cheap lamps, the color may be painted directly on the glass.
Examine the solder marks.
Tiffany lamps are made by soldering together small pieces of stained glass, and the solder used is a soft, lead-based solder. This means that the solder lines on a genuine Tiffany lamp will be slightly uneven and may even appear slightly lumpy. In addition, the solder on an antique Tiffany lamp will have a dull, matte finish rather than a shiny, polished appearance.
Fake Tiffany lamps may have more precise and uniform solder marks, giving them a neater and more polished appearance. The solder used on these lamps may also have a shiny finish, which is not typical of genuine Tiffany lamps. Additionally, fake Tiffany lamps may use a different type of solder that is not lead-based, which can also affect the appearance of the solder marks.
It is important to note, however, that the appearance of the solder marks on a Tiffany lamp can vary depending on the individual lamp and the artisan who made it, so this should not be the only factor used to determine if a lamp is real or fake.
Research the design.
Another way to identify a fake Tiffany lamp is by looking at the design of the lamp. Tiffany lamps are known for their intricate, hand-crafted designs, often featuring floral or nature-inspired motifs. Authentic Tiffany lamps are made using a technique called copper foil construction, in which small pieces of stained glass are cut to fit the desired pattern and then wrapped in copper foil. This method allows for fine, detailed work and produces a characteristic look that is unique to Tiffany lamps.
Fake Tiffany lamps, on the other hand, may have designs that are less detailed or less finely crafted. The overall design may also be less complex or lack the characteristic Tiffany style. Look at the design and compare it to known examples of genuine Tiffany lamps. See if it matches the level of quality and craftsmanship that is typical of these lamps.
See if there are signs of age.
Real Tiffany lamps are antiques, with some examples dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As a result, they will often show signs of age, such as the patina on the metal parts or small chips or cracks in the stained glass. Fake Tiffany lamps, on the other hand, are typically more recent creations and will not have these signs of age.
Therefore, when evaluating a lamp that you suspect may be a fake Tiffany, consider the overall condition of the lamp and look for signs that it has been well-used and well-loved over the years. This can be an important factor in determining whether the lamp is genuine or not.
Look at the wiring.
Another way to identify a fake from a real Tiffany lamp is by looking at the wiring and the lamp switch. Antique Tiffany lamps are often quite old, and their wiring and switches may not meet current safety standards. Sometimes, the wiring may be frayed or damaged, or the switch may not function properly. Fake Tiffany lamps, on the other hand, will typically have newer, more modern wiring and switches that meet current safety standards.
Check the weight.
Tiffany lamps are made of stained glass and metal, which can make them quite heavy. Genuine Tiffany lamps will typically have a substantial, solid feel to them, and may be difficult to move or reposition. Fake Tiffany lamps, on the other hand, may be lighter in weight due to the use of cheaper materials or a less robust construction. Therefore, when evaluating a lamp that you suspect may be a fake Tiffany, consider its weight and compare it to known examples of genuine Tiffany lamps. If the lamp feels significantly lighter than you would expect, this could be a sign that it is not a real Tiffany.
Know reproduction terms.
When trying to identify a fake Tiffany lamp, consider the language that the seller uses to describe the lamp. Sellers of genuine Tiffany lamps will typically use terms like “antique,” “vintage,” or “authentic” to describe their lamps. They may also include specific details about the age, provenance, or history of the lamp in their descriptions.
In contrast, sellers of fake Tiffany lamps may use more general or vague terms to describe the lamp. Common terms include “reproduction,” “Tiffany-style,” or “Tiffany-inspired.” They may also avoid providing specific details about the lamp’s age or history.
Original Tiffany lamps are highly valuable and can be quite expensive. If the price seems too good to be true, it is likely that the lamp is not original. Authentic Tiffany lamps can be extremely expensive. So, if a Tiffany lamp is being offered at a significantly lower price, it may be a fake.
Ask for authentication.
When identifying a real Tiffany lamp, look for a certificate of authenticity or an appraisal. A certificate of authenticity is a document that confirms that the lamp is a genuine Tiffany. It may be issued by the manufacturer, a reputable dealer, or an expert in Tiffany lamps. An appraisal is a document that provides an estimate of the value of the lamp based on its age, condition, and other factors.
Both a certificate of authenticity and an appraisal can provide valuable information. However, it is important to note that not all Tiffany lamps will come with a certificate of authenticity or an appraisal. The absence of these documents does not necessarily mean that the lamp is fake. Instead, they should be considered as one factor among many when evaluating a Tiffany lamp.
Read seller reviews.
Try to purchase the lamp from a reputable dealer who specializes in Tiffany lamps. If you are unsure about the authenticity of a Tiffany lamp, research the seller to see if they have a reputation for selling genuine Tiffany lamps. Avoid buying from sellers who have a history of selling fake Tiffany lamps or little history of selling high-end antiques in general. Be cautious of buying a Tiffany lamp online, as it can be difficult to determine its authenticity without seeing it in person.
Consult an expert.
An antique lamp expert can help you evaluate the lamp and determine whether it is original. If you are unsure about the authenticity of a Tiffany lamp, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid purchasing it.
Do your research and only buy from reputable sources—and get a second opinion if needed. This will ensure that you are getting a genuine Tiffany lamp and not a fake. While authentic Tiffany lamps may be more expensive, they are worth the investment because their value tends to increase over time.