A Stiffel lamp is an iconic brand that was popular in the 1960s and early 1970s. Stiffel lamps are unique table lamps with a cast iron base, designed by Albert Paley. They are easily identifiable by their inverted cone-shaped shades, most often made of glass with metal accents at the top. The height of the majority of versions is around 48 inches, but there were also 23 inch versions as well as some taller or shorter versions – although these are quite rare.
The one thing to note, watch out for reproduction Stiffel lamps made from fibreglass – the originals were only made from metal or glass.
Stiffel lamp base can be of either cast iron or aluminum depending on the manufacturing date. Stiffel lampshades are most often white/cream with a metallic ring at the top. Some examples have been spotted in solid brass tone but are less common than bronze/gold tone Stiffels.
They usually were purchased by moms or grandparents as a gift for their children or grandchildren that had just moved into a new home, often with the purchase of new matching furniture. Stores were eager to help these new homeowners match their lamp to their furniture, and they would often place some leaded glass samples on the table of each sofa set they sold.
This leaded glass was purchased from an accessory company not associated with any lamp manufacturer, and came in many colors and patterns. A matching sample was placed on the bottom of each lampshade for free when purchased at full retail price (no coupons accepted).
When Stiffels went out of style, you could always get them at garage sales and swap meets and they became a very inexpensive way to add some color and height to an empty corner in the living room.
The metal parts of a Stiffel are very heavy and require much more effort to create than compared to lamp bases made today. If you are looking for an older used lamp in your home, look carefully at how it is constructed.
Modern manufacturing processes allow for cheaper construction methods that produce lamps that cannot be sold as antiques or reproductions because they don’t hold their value as well as those made with “old world” craftsmanship. Be sure to ask any potential seller if they know what kind of base it has so you can identify whether it will fit with the rest of the room decor or furniture style. Many people consider buying a solid brass or aluminum base to be an investment, and do not want to ruin their chances of selling it by putting a modern lamp in it.
Are Stiffel lamps valuable?
A Stiffel lamp is a type of post-modern or retro table lamp that was first designed by Albert Paley in 1967 for the Stiffel Company. The lamp had an octagonal base and vertical metal tubing supporting an inverted cone shade made of glass.
As of 2020 prices on eBay were between $500 – $600 for new old stock (NOS) models in excellent condition. Reproductions are available online but they aren’t as sturdy as original lamps and the glass shades tend to be inferior.
A valuable brand from the past is the STIFEL LAMP company, which made metal lamps. They have been in existence since the 1940s and were a popular fixture throughout the post-war period until they went out of business in 1968.
Their lamp designs include a number of wooden-based models, but most are metal with octagonal bases and inverted cone bulb shades made out of glass panels. It’s sometimes possible to find these lamps with minor flaws or damage at garage sales or flea markets for a few bucks, but keep an eye peeled for top examples that are still in great shape.
How do you tell if a lamp is a Stiffel?
Well, for starters, it helps to know that there were two different periods when these distinctive lamps were made. Between 1940 and 1942, the designs had a round base with a straight upper section ending in a tripod crossbar. In 1942 – 1955 they became known as “Sophisticates” and had a more elaborate center column with four L-shaped bars crossing close to its top.
The metal ‘lamp base’ had a different shape in each style, but their overall appearance was very similar, so any Stiffel lamp you come across is likely to have some design elements that are characteristic of these two eras. It also helps if you know that there were many different table lamps made by the company during this period. They’re easy to identify on eBay because they all have “Stiffel Co.” printed on them, on top of the shade holder support ring and sometimes inside the harp area as well.
The tripod crossbar lamps were also available in two sizes, 4-1/2 feet and 5 feet tall. These usually had the company’s name printed directly on the base ring, but they could also be found with a “hand-etched” paper label.
A good way to tell if you’re looking at one of these lamps is by looking for three straight lines in the design of the lamp base itself. If you see them, it’s likely that it’s one of the earlier models from this period rather than a newer model from 1955 onward – although there are exceptions, depending upon which model you have.
The 1942 Sophisticates did not always have these straight lines so it isn’t a sure-fire method for making this determination.
The paper labels were used only on the tripods, the L-shaped lamps did not have them. Later in 1955, when Stiffel moved away from the tripod design, they began to use “hand-etched” metal rings instead of paper labels – but by then they had started making other lamps so you can’t assume anything about one style or another just because it has an “S” shaped base.
The price printed on the lamp base should help to identify what type of ’40s model you have.
In general, I have found that round tripods are the least expensive while the square models tend to be the rarest & most fragile. Tripod bases are usually less expensive than base-less models even when they’re in equally good condition. The more metal bars a tripod has, the more it should command but this is not always true because some buyers are put off by heavy or bulky lamps.
If you’ve been tempted by one of these lamps, now would be a good time to consider buying because prices have recently started going up again after a brief decline! Buyers have become more fickle and knowledgeable so quality is being emphasized over rarity. This means that some common models are currently selling for more money than they did a couple of years ago but the rarer items haven’t had their prices adjusted upwards yet… although this might change soon if demand continues to outstrip supply.
All of this information may help you decide what to buy… but if you don’t want to do any research yourself, try contacting lamp clubs near you for advice or opinions on specific styles. You’ll get lots of helpful responses since vintage lighting enthusiasts are usually very happy to share their experiences!