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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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Selection of Pairpoint lamps from the sale ranging in price from $2,070-$9,430. Photo courtesy of James D. Julia
Imagine the surprised look on people’s faces in September 1882 when electricity reached their homes for the first time in New York City?

The world literally lit up.

Smoky kerosene lamps eventually ended up in the attic and electricity would ultimately replace the remaining gaslights. Many of the beautifully detailed brass and iron Victorian gas fixtures were later adapted for electricity.

With electric lights, women could now sit in their parlors, do their needlework, play music, and entertain guests for late afternoon tea by the soft, warm glow of an electric lamp.

More changes were about to come. In a few short years, they’d also be able to telephone the grocer, produce a letter on the typewriter, take a photograph with a Kodak camera, and drive one of Mr. Ford’s new motorcars.

The machine-age was here to stay and American designers looked for ways to promote their wares. Simple early-lamps became the dazzling colored lamps of the late-19th century Art Nouveau, and the early-20th century Art Deco periods.

Lamp design reached a whole new level in beauty, design and workmanship in New York with Louis Comfort Tiffany. His elaborate floor, hanging, and table lamps are a good example.

Tiffany spared no expense in their creation. His leaded-glass shades came on the market in 1899 and were immediately fashionable. Confident of the quality, he signed most of his work.

Tiffany wasn’t alone in his vision. Competitors followed close behind.

The Pairpoint Glass Company of New Bedford, Mass., made decorative lamps and lamp accessories from the late-1890s until the 1930s. Their puffy, ribbed and scenic lampshades were desirable back then, and are highly collectible today.

A Tiffany contemporary, Quezal Art Glass of Brooklyn, produced lamps for nearly a quarter century that were nearly indistinguishable from Tiffany’s. The Handel Company of Meriden, Conn., was another popular name among Art Nouveau lamp makers and also modeled many of their lamps after Tiffany.

European Art Nouveau masters include Emile Galle and Rene Lalique. Galle was best known for his carved and etched cameo glass made with different colored layers. He almost always signed his work.

Rene Lalique, known as a sculptor in glass, designed and produced a huge variety of frosted, opalescent and clear-glass objects. During Lalique’s lifetime, at least 16 different marks were used to identify his work.

Pieces by these designers regularly come up for sale at auction. With lamps, value depends on the condition, maker, age, rarity and if the piece is signed. Reproductions abound, and it’s important to purchase lamps from people you trust.

On June 23-24, James Julia in Fairfield, Maine, featured its Important Glass & Lamp Auction. Let’s take a look at some highlights.

Auction Results

Handel Fluid Burning Table Lamp, opal ball shade with Persian-like design, 26-½ in. high, excellent condition, $1,725

Classique, Scenic Table Lamp, farm scene shade, 24-1/ 2 in. high, signed base, excellent condition, $2,070

Le Gras Cameo Glass Table Lamp, base and shade is decorated in holly leaves and berries, 19 in. high, excellent condition, $3,450

Pairpoint Table Lamp, Landing of the Pilgrims Roma Shade, 26-¾ in. high, signed, good condition, $6,900

Handel Table Lamp #6004, glass shade features Roman ruins, 24-½ in. high, signed, excellent condition, $7,475

Pairpoint Lilac Table Lamp, shade has purple and lavender lilacs, 23-½ in. high, signed, excellent condition, $7,475

Pairpoint Venetian Scene Table Lamp, shade shows harbor with sailboats and gondola, 21-1/2 in. high, excellent condition, $8,625

Tiffany Studios Table Lamp, Spider and Web design, shade and base marked, shade is 15-1/2 in. in diameter, good condition, $34,500

Tiffany Poinsettia Table Lamp, shade has red variegated poinsettia flowers with green leaves, 21 in. high, signed shade, very good condition, $36,800

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