D.G. has a leaded glass table lamp in the Arts and Crafts style from the first quarter of the 20th century. He inherited the lamp from his grandparents, who were successfully upper class in the Tucson area at the time.
The lamp bears a great-looking shade in a striking band of multicolored glass in creams and oranges in a Greek key design, topped with a purple-blue striated panel running horizontal with a cream rickrack line. The shade sits on a slender, tapered, bronze lead-weighted base, original to the lamp.
These Arts and Crafts lamps can be very valuable. The best of the best are lamps by Tiffany Studios. If he had such a maker, D.G. would find the shade signed "Tiffany Studios New York" with a model number following. The base would also be impressed "Tiffany Studios New York" with another model number. If he finds these markings, he's $20,000 richer.
Not finding those markings, other Arts and Crafts lamp makers are also valuable, and D.G. should look for Duffner and Kimberly, or Williamson, or Handel. Indeed, I think his is a Handel lamp because of the distinctive geometric shade. In this case, I would put the value at $3,000.
Leaded glass lamps made quite a statement in a Craftsman-style home in 1900. An Arts and Crafts home was a philosophy rather than one particular style. The common tenants of the Craftsman era were a dark, tranquil interior; an open floor plan; the use of many windows for cross ventilation; the use of natural building material of stone, brick and wood; simple tile and pottery; and very carefully chosen bright jewel-like accents.
When D.G.'s grandparents purchased this lamp in 1900, they proclaimed their good taste, but they also proclaimed their rebellion against the previous generation's style of interior design. Perhaps D.G.'s great-grandparents' house of the mid- to late 19th century was filled with objects, the more the better: colorful, intricate carpets; carved, heavy mahogany furniture; potted plants; and heavy gold mirrors. That's the style called Victorian. The young followers of the Arts and Crafts movement revolted against this "bad" taste.
Consider also that D.G.'s great-grandparents were children of the Industrial Revolution when even a middle-class American could afford mass-produced, machine-made objets d'art. But D.G.'s grandparents, by the purchase of this lamp, showed they approved of simpler, handmade objects. An over-decorated room would have killed the charm of this lamp, a lamp, which, by the way, in 1900, was not cheap.
D.G., check the lightbulb fixture inside the shade. To make these lamps really show off their handmade leaded glass shades, the most expensive lamps offered a three-light cluster arrangement for the interior insertion of bulbs (almost all Tiffany lamps have this feature). This extra light ability made sure of two objectives in a room: that the lamp should be the focal point, and that visitors to the home would realize that the house was fully electrified, a semi-rare thing in that day, and a status symbol.
A reaction against the previous generation, the lamp said "my owners hate all that stuff that came before me, those horrible hurricane parlor lamps; so much stuff, so little beauty." That's why this lamp represents more than just an era, but a philosophy.
A lamp like this would sit proudly on a very simple oak table that would have looked at home in a simple medieval peasant's cottage. In fact, that was the goal. Simple furniture made in the mortice and tenon joinery style, with very little varnish. That's what set off this little jewel lamp back in Tucson in D.G.'s grandparent's first house.
His grandmother might have placed a little simple handmade pottery vase filled with wildflowers on the table to accompany the lamp. Perhaps his grandparents positioned a Morris chair upholstered in simple calf leather next to the table and lamp. The chair was named after the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, the poet, publisher, art aficionado, and book designer William Morris of Kelmscott, England, the birthplace of Craftsman design. He would have wanted one for himself because of the simple geometric design.
The best place to sell such a lamp these days is David Rago Auctions in Lambertville, N.J. Mr. Rago has made a specialty of Arts and Crafts pottery, furniture and all things "modern," and this lamp would have been considered very avant-garde in its day, very modern indeed.
Certified appraiser for estates, inheritances and trusts.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart's column appears every week in the Salon & Style section of the Santa Barbara News Press. Email her your questions and high-resolution photos at ElizabethAppraisals @ gmail.com
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