It is always distressing when cherished objects around the home get damaged. It is even more upsetting when they are made of glass. While Tiffany-style lamps are generally quite hardy, sometimes they get bashed and begin to lose their integrity. Over the years I have seen and, I am pleased to say, managed to repair, many Tiffany lamps. Like those skilled craftsmen and women featured in the popular TV series, The Repair Shop, I take a lot of care to make sure the repair as sympathetic to the original as possible.
Tiffany lamps are made using the copper foil technique and damage ranges from dents and cracked pieces of glass to missing pieces and torn or missing soldered foil. Once there is a weakened area – especially in a flat-sided shade – the lamp can be pulled out of shape, weakening the other foiled joints. This can lead to collapse.
However, often there is a solution. Cracked or missing glass can be replaced, or matched as nearly as possible with the original. Damaged and missing foil can be replaced, too. Torn edges can be restored and dents can be smoothed.
A recent Tiffany lamp repair I did started with a pretty flat-sided shade featuring textured yellow and green glass. Unfortunately, half of it had broken away from the rest, with a lot of the soldered foil torn or gone. The good news was that the owner had all the pieces of glass and they were not damaged in themselves.
I started by cleaning up all the pieces and removing the damaged, soldered foil. I worked out how the jigsaw of individual pieces went together and set about replacing the foil. As you may have seen on The Repair Shop, you have to be a bit of a detective to piece it all together, while making the repair as sympathetic to the original as you can.
Once the pieces were foiled, they could be soldered back together, neatly bead soldered, then carefully refitted to the vase cap on the top. It was quite a challenge to get all the pieces to fit back into the vase cap but this was achieved by adjusting the soldering. I kept as much of the original soldered foil as I could, but some of the glass pieces were loose in the joints. In order to make these areas doubly secure, I added fine steel strips and soldered over them so they did not show or detract from the design.
The final touch was to add a dark patina to the new solder to blend it in with the existing tone.
Another clean up on the inside and outside completed this Tiffany lamp repair.
The owner was delighted and said it was “an excellent job”. I am pleased I was able to give his broken lamp a new lease of life.