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Tiffany Style Lighting for Beginners

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 18.52.49From next week (September 2014), I will be the brand ambassador for Tiffany Style lamps on the QVC shopping channel.  I’m not sure how that happened, but I’m not one to turn down a venture into the unknown, so I have every intention of enjoying the ride and seeing where it takes me.

In the meantime, I’ve been studying the lamps and am delighted there is so much to say about them.  In truth, I’m rarely stumped for words, but it’s best to have too much to say when there are four cameras facing you, than going very dry in the mouth and coming to a stuttering halt.

The Main Man – Louis Comfort Tiffany

Who in their right mind calls their son Comfort?  Even in the States, in the middle of the 19thcentury?  Do you know anyone else called Comfort?  (I promise not to mention detergent while I’m on air.)

Name aside, I really like the guy.  He had some great philosophies.  He loved nature and craft and created a product that was the best reflection of both of these worlds.  His father, Charles Lewis Tiffany (a far more sensible name) founded Tiffany & Co. (think small, blue boxes) and so with hindsight, isn’t it easy to see how father and son might have talked at night, about glass, jewels and how they’d reflect in the light.  It seems almost obvious that ‘Junior’ would develop the theme into lighting.

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Dark & Dingy

You’ve got to remember that in those days they weren’t sitting under their glaring down-lighters, with Lutron controls and sculptural floor lamps. No, no, no.  The paraffin (or kerosene) lamp had just come about (c1850).  A hurricane-style glass chimney surrounded a burning wick, dipped in the fuel contained in the chamber below.  Probably not on the health and safety list today, but at the time, they were a big improvement on candles, whose light barely extended from their immediate source.

We forget and take for granted our light today.  A flick of a switch and we’re ablaze with the stuff. But it’s not been so long really, since we had such tiny, valuable sources of light to help us through the dark evenings.

Stained Glass

Imagine then the impact and wonder coloured glass would have had on the light.  Further still, how an image of birds, or flowers, or a countryside scene would look lit from within by an oil source, or later, the magic of electricity.

Screen shot 2014-08-27 at 18.48.15Tiffany wanted to create beautiful lamps that would transform a room (or realistically, a corner of a room).  He was obsessed with making the glass appear as natural as possible, so the dragonflies appeared to flutter or the water seemed to flow.  Every single piece of glass was (and still is) specifically chosen for each lampshade.  Every shade is a unique work of art.


I’m soon to be on air with people who have loved these lamps for years and know them inside and out.  As a result, I’m learning the lingo – striation, gradation, illumination.  I’m fond of iridescence, sinuous and mottling (and hope to use all three when describing one lampshade).  I’ll also say pierced brass filigree and throw around the words patination and apertures.  A lot.  Because I can.

If you know any keen Tiffany Style Lamp collectors, please do send them my way or if you’ve got any sexy vocab I might like to consider, please do get in touch.


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