Authentic Tiffany Lamps, Original Tiffany Lamps, Genuine Tiffany Lamps – Do Those Terms Mean The Same Thing?

The terms “authentic Tiffany lamp,” “original Tiffany lamp” and “genuine Tiffany lamp” appear in many places – from ads in online auctions to estate sale ads, to antique auctions, to notes left by Grandma Smith to her family in her Will.

To be specific and honest about this, there is only one situation where these terms are both accurate and truthful:

When the lamp shade or shade and base involved were actually made by Tiffany Studios, New York between about 1898-1928.

When the lamp has not had the shade or the base swapped for a newer part, to help sell it or display it or anything else. It is fine to preserve what is left, and to say that is an authentic and genuine and original Tiffany lamp. But if only 50% of a table, hanging or floor lamp is original, authentic and genuine, then only the original part of the lamp is “right” and should be called authentic, original and genuine.

Many authentic Tiffany lamp shades have fallen prey to stray children’s tossed balls, careless housekeeping or other mishaps. In the worst cases, it renders the shade non reparable and basically worthless. In the luckiest cases, the shade and/or the base can be fixed well, if done by an expert restoration person; but the cost will not be inexpensive at all.

I realize I have a strong bias, but when I see people selling new reproductions of Tiffany Studios lamps and using the words “authentic,” “antique,” “genuine” and “original,” it irritates me. It’s false advertising. People who know no different continue to think that any leaded shade – hanging, table or floor lamp is an authentic Tiffany lamp, as if it was made between 1898-1928, because they don’t know or read up on the history. If they did they would realize that if a “Tiffany” (style) lamp is being made today, it cannot possibly be an authentic, original or genuine Tiffany Studios lamp.

As long as there is ink in my keyboard, and as long as I am an appraiser and private broker and strong lover of the fascinating and beautiful authentic lamp creations of Louis Comfort Tiffany, I will continue to educate people, to expose false advertising, and to point out forgeries and grossly misrepresented lamps people offer privately and to the public in various ways to make as much money as they can. If this means my subscription to the “Online Auctions Secret Club” (I don’t know if there actually is one, but it is possible) is revoked, fine. There are enough people being fooled and taken by false, misleading advertising in food, investments, automobiles, healthcare, and other industries. There is no need to also fool or scam people by saying that a lamp is an authentic, original or genuine Tiffany lamp when it is a “knock off,” fake, phony, or other kind of reproduction (no matter how well made or how attractive). Call a horse a horse. But please don’t call it Secretariat.

If people don’t have the money for an authentic, original Tiffany lamp (and small desk lamps for example, can be bought for $2000.-$4000. these days, it’s fine with me if they buy reproductions. I just do not want people who have or do not have the money to spend on an authentic Tiffany lamp to buy something they believe to be the “real deal” and totally waste their money. Pictured below is an authentic, original, genuine Tiffany lamp.

Authentic Tiffany Lamp

I wrote this because even the best dictionaries do not differentiate well between these terms bandied about, and because every time I have to tell someone the lamp they inherited or bought is either a forgery or not authentic Tiffany Studios and not terribly old, it is, after 45 years, still somewhat difficult for me. I want to try and avoid in any way I can, as many incidences of that happening in the future.  Honest, factual education I believe, is part of the solution to this problem.


About the Author:

Dennis Tesdell has used his experience and knowledge owning a fine art gallery, working as a professional appraiser and contributing to books and articles on art, antiques, and appraising since 1972. In 1999 he was a chief contributor to the first book published by “FOR DUMMIES” on antique collecting, called Antiquing For Dummies. Dennis has over 46 years as a private fine art broker and Tiffany Studios lamp broker, working with private and corporate clients authenticating, assessing and selling their major American and European paintings and authentic Tiffany Studios lamps to private collectors worldwide. He has had great success in the private, discreet brokering of fine American and European art quickly, and he is one of the very few "no fee to the seller" private art brokers internationally. His contact information is on each page of his web sites.