Saturday, November 14, 2015

Heirlooms: Tiffany? Chandelier

My middle brother and I liked to play in the corn crib on my maternal grandparents' farm. It's where Grandpa Lange stored the feed corn for his livestock. It had a wooden slide, which he used to unload the corn. As he shoveled corn through the door at the top of the slide, it would descend into the crib.
 I don't know why my brother and I didn't think about the mice or even rats that had to be gorging themselves on that corn. I guess we had great faith in the farm's mousers -- the cats that lived in the barn!

One time as my brother went down the slide, he landed on something barely buried in the corn. We dug around a bit and saw what we thought was gold. Buried treasure! We ran to get Mom and Dad and they unearthed a very filthy stained glass and brass chandelier. Mom fell in love immediately and we took it home with us that evening.

She worked on cleaning it up for months. It was obviously quite old, made before the use of electricity was common because the gold on which my brother landed was really one of several brass gas jets. After Mom got it in a spotless condition, Dad wired it for electricity and bought a bulb for the interior. He hung it over the dining room table in our house in Arlington, Virginia, where we lived from 1958 to 1967.

Thanksgiving or Christmas at Mom and Dad's home in Vienna. You can see the
chandelier above the table. (I am seated at the far left.); personal collection

When we moved to Vienna, Virginia, the chandelier came with us and again hung in the dining room. One night, as we ate dinner in the dining room -- something we rarely did -- there was a knock on the door. The man was a stranger, who introduced himself as an antiques dealer. He was driving through our neighborhood and was attracted by Mom's chandelier. He asked to examine it. He spent a couple of hours doing various things to it and then thanked my parents. He said he believed with a high degree of confidence it was made by Tiffany. I can't remember the date range he posited. He also suggested Mom and Dad have it formally appraised and insured separately. Oh my we all thought!

The appraiser Mom called who came to see it to said the same thing. However, the chandelier is not signed, which apparently is unusual.

When they moved to North Carolina, in 1978, the chandelier, of course, came, too. It hung over their dining room table in both houses they built there. In 2013 Mom and Dad decided to move into an assisted living facility, the chandelier came home with me. It now graces our dining room.

The maybe Tiffany chandelier in our current dining room; personal
The chandelier and table set for dinner guests last week;
personal collection

Jeanne Byran Insalaco, author of Everyone Has a Story, challenged fellow geneabloggers to write about their family heirlooms during the month of November.

15 November 2015 Update: After publishing this post, I decided to make a new attempt at discovering who manufactured this chandelier. As I looked at online photographs, I suspected it was not a Tiffany. I found an antique dealer, who specialized in Tiffanies, and contacted him through his online forum. After completing a form and submitting photographs of my chandelier, Mr. Dennis Tesdell, a private broker of Tiffany lamps, replied. He confirmed it was not a genuine Tiffany and that it was made "in the style of Tiffany" between 1900-1930 out of slag glass, a type of glass Tiffany did not use. This, of course, reduces its value significantly, but that did not matter as I had no intention of selling it.

Heirlooms: The Olive Wood Bible 
Memories Are My Favorite Heirlooms


  1. What a great story, loved how it was found!

  2. Your story is worth more than a true "TIffany." I hope the next generations appreciate it as you have!

    1. I hope so, too. It will likely go to one of my two nephews families.