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Spotting Quality Mosaic Lamps: What to Look for

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The art of glass making is one that has played a central role in the culture of Asia Minor since the days of the Byzantine Empire. It still finds expression in Turkish handicrafts today, most notably in the stunning mosaic lamps that are such a fixture (excuse the pun) of so many markets in Istanbul. Glass making as an art is generally thought to have reached its pinnacle of sophistication in this part of the world about 500 years ago when the workshops of the day produced myriad glass vases, bowls, flasks and more. It was also during this period when the precursors to the aforementioned Turkish mosaic lamps first appeared.

The Appropriation Problem

Since first appearing in what is now Turkey during the 16th century glass lamp shades have undergone constant refinement. But while they have long been well-known and appreciated throughout Anatolia their beauty was unknown throughout much of the rest of the world until recently. This kind of cultural hibernation meant that when Louis Comfort Tiffany visited Constantinople during the 19th century he was A) astonished by what he found and B) was able to take samples back to the West with him and use them as the inspiration for his own, now legendary lamps.

Tiffany’s coming out party as it were occurred at the 1893 Worlds Columbian Exhibition in Chicago where he displayed his prototype lamps in a setting designed to emulate a Byzantine chapel. It was a subtle nod of appreciation to the land that provided him his inspiration but the reference was lost on most people and is virtually forgotten today. These days most folks believe Tiffany came up with his lamp shade idea all by himself, when his was actually an early example of cultural appropriation.

Tiffany went on to become world famous and fabulously rich from his version of the mosaic lamp while the craftsmen of Turkey continued to labor in obscurity. Fortunately, a growing number of people raised on Tiffany (and the typically low quality knock offs that are currently being mass produced in his name) are coming into contact with Turkish mosaic lamps and discovering LCT might not have been the singular genius everyone assumed him to be. More and more folks are opting for beautiful, handcrafted Turkish lamps and discovering what a valuable addition they can be to home, restaurant, hotel or tavern decor.

Byproducts of Globalization

As Turkish mosaic lamps have gained wider cultural traction in the West their popularity has not gone unnoticed by those who run the knock-off factories in the East. The result is that you’ll often find cheap imitation Turkish lamps in just about every discount store on the planet these days. It’s one of the byproducts of globalization and it raises the question of how you tell a true, high-quality mosaic lamp from a dirt cheap copy produced in a souvenir factory somewhere.

How to Tell Quality Mosaic Lamps from Knockoffs

While there are enough subtle design differences between genuine Tiffany lamps and genuine Turkish mosaic lamps to be able to tell them apart without much trouble that’s not the case when it comes to telling genuine Turkish lamps apart from cheap knock offs. The copy experts have done their homework to the extent that, from a few feet away it might be tough to tell which is the real thing, and which is the copy. So below we’ll provide you with a few things to look for that indicate whether a lamp was really handmade in Turkey or mass produced somewhere else.

  • Quality of the glass - When attempting to discern whether lamps are genuine or copies the first thing you’ll want to check on is the quality of the glass. The glass on genuine mosaic lamps is heavy and has a very distinct presence. You can feel it in the surface. Tap the glass gently with your knuckle to determine if it sounds like the real thing. If what you get back is the flat, thin sound of plastic you know you have a copy on your hands.
  • Color of the Glass - The glass in a genuine Turkish lamp is handmade with great care given to imbuing it with a deep, rich color. If you’re unsure whether a lamp is genuine or not flip the switch and take a good look at the glass. If it’s pale and the color seems bleached out by the light from the bulb you’re likely dealing with a copy. If on the other hand the color is bold and rich and doesn’t back down from the bulb you’ve probably got a genuine lamp on your hands.
  • The Texture of the Base - Real Turkish lamps are made with real bronze bases, not plastic. Bronze has a very different feel to it than plastic does. It also tends to reflect the ambient temperature. So if it’s cold in the room the base will be cold and if it’s hot the base will be hot. More than that though the feel of the bronze itself should be a dead giveaway. So run your hand over the surface of the base. You’ll know if it’s metal or plastic.
  • The Weight of the Lamp - Real, handmade glass is heavy. A solid bronze pedestal is heavy. Conversely a cheap plastic shade and pedestal designed to mimic real materials don’t weigh much at all. Pick up the lamp and consider its weight. If it has a real heft to it there’s a good chance it’s genuine. If it weighs about as much as a coffee cup it’s likely a plastic copy.

Buy From The Best

When you purchase your Turkish mosaic lamps from Paykoc you can rest assured that you’re getting a product of Turkish craftsmanship passed down through the centuries. Every one of our mosaic lamps is handcrafted in the workshops of Turkey and imported by us for your enjoyment and appreciation. Don’t waste your time with cheap knockoffs. Buy your mosaic lamp from the #1 source for these astonishing pieces of home decor: Paykoc Imports.

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