The History Of The World’s Most Expensive Lamp

Much like how beauty is so often in the eye of the beholder, the concept of luxury can take so many different forms, particularly when it comes to the lamps that provide such a big impact relative to their size.

Whilst the connection between price and luxury is tentative at best and you can have a luxurious look without necessarily paying a premium, the most expensive lamp ever made is a fascinating story of how the ornate luxury of the past would shape the future of art and design.

The lamp itself, a Tiffany Pond Lily table lamp, sold for over £3m in 2018 via Christie’s auction house and is believed to be over 120 years old.

What makes it notable is that it is a Tiffany lamp, a type of handmade lamp designed by the studios of Louis Comfort Tiffany, in an attempt to bring back the ancient art of stained glass that had largely been abandoned in the age of industry in favour of faster mass production methods.

Deeply in love with the colour intensity of mediaeval stained glass and dismayed by his inability to find glass which provided that same vivid finish, the son of the Tiffany & Co. department store founder patented a technique of iridescent glass production known as Favile.

Unlike other types of art glass, the colour was a part of the glass, rather than a painted-on coating, and allowed him to create stained-glass windows that strongly resembled the ancient artists he admired.

These windows and lamps, credited to Mr Tiffany but created by unsung artists such as Clara Driscoll, were a strong influence on the Art Deco movement.

Unfortunately, by the 1910s, Tiffany glass had largely lost its lustre, and whilst Mr Tiffany kept the company going with his father’s money, by 1932 the studio filed for bankruptcy owing to the effects of the Great Depression, with Mr Tiffany himself passing away a year later.