Updated: Mar 27, 2020
The name Tiffany evokes many feelings around the world but it’s truly one of America’s longest lasting love affairs of a brand. Tiffany, founded by its name sake, Charles Lewis Tiffany, is best known now, at least by millennials and gen-xers for its jewelry stores and the iconic brand. A pioneer, Charles introduced the nation to its first retail catalog in 1848. That’s like having the first US website or designing the first cellphone to you, young pups. I am also surprised how many people believe Louis Comfort Tiffany, famed designer and master of all thing’s art glass, is the same person. He was, in fact, the son of America’s world premier jeweler, and a legend in his own right. The red delicious talent apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
I was reminded of his amazing talents a few months back when a company I had worked for received one of his iconic stained-glass lamps on a consignment. When you hear Tiffany Lamp, you know what one is, but they are so often reproduced. To see one in the flesh (or glass & metal) is to know his talent. And these pieces command top dollar at auction. This small Table Lamp realized over $27,000 and if that sounds like a lot, one rare model Tiffany lamp just sold in December for $3.37 Million Dollars. Now that’s a lamp and yes, treasure seekers, they are out there. These are often passed down from generation to generation, but as we often find, many may not know what they have. There are other brands and competitor makers that look similar. And let’s not talk about the sea of reproductions. Obviously, the real thing commands the big bucks but there are other makers from the American Aesthetic thru the Art Nouveau Period that can fetch a pretty penny as well. Roycroft, Handel, Pairpoint and more.
Why the love for Tiffany Lamps and Glassworks? I believe he like his father, was a trailblazer. Also known for glass mosaics, ceramics, enamels, and metalwork. That’s a busy guy in those days. LCT designed more than stained glass lamps. Tiffany’s glass making skills really began in the 1870s. His opulent church stained-windows brought him world acclaim. Always honing his craft and improving upon technique, by the 1880s he was designing several rooms for President Chester Arthur at the White House, the Mark Twain House and several prominent buildings around the US. By the turn of the Century, he was world renown, winning international awards and honors for these iconic works. His jewelry design days did not begin until 1902, when he joined his father’s venture, just prior to his passing.
As we know, the brand, design and jewelry stores lived on. Tiffany, the American brand, survived the Great Depression. The glass company did not fare so well, closing the Studios after the Stock Market Crash. I often wonder if it was the transition away from the traditional and Art Nouveau or simply the budget for the opulent during these lean times. But be sure, the love for the glass and the past has not died. Neither has the love affair with Tiffany.