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tline3open  Tiffany Pompeian Lamp Cigar Lighter

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Author Topic:   Tiffany Pompeian Lamp Cigar Lighter

Posts: 69
Registered: Nov 2007

iconnumber posted 09-27-2009 11:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Nyoman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

I'm posting several photos of a very interesting Tiffany silver cigar lighter in the form of an Aladdin's lamp. The only other reference to it that I can find is in the Tiffany section of a web site where they call it a Pompeian Cigar Lamp

As I don't have a copy of Charles and Mary Carpenter's book "Tiffany Silver" a friend looked through it for me and couldn't find it mentioned in that book.

It has nice early pattern number, 989 and it is further engraved with the initials D.S.A. and the date 1867.

If any Tiffany silver experts have any information about this piece, I would surely appreciate your time in sharing it with me. My specific questions would be, what date range is appropriate for this piece - is this a rarity or a more common piece, where can I find documentation about it, do the engraved initials and date ring any bells, etc?

Many thanks in advance.

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Richard Kurtzman

Posts: 759
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 09-28-2009 08:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Nyoman,

Nice piece. The 1867 date is probably close to, or when it was made. I can't make out what's under the 989 pattern number but the marks look to be from the 1865 - 1870 period. The pattern number indicates that this design was probably first done in the late 1850s.

A lot of these things were made, but today it's an uncommon though not rare piece.
Regarding the inscription, it's so general that I doubt that you will be able to pin it down.

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Posts: 1597
Registered: Mar 2003

iconnumber posted 09-28-2009 09:18 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Kimo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
It is very elegantly designed - thank you for sharing this!

I was thinking that to make it work as a lighter the pot would need to be filled with lamp oil and then the wick would be lit with a match. It would then stay lit for as long as desired. This suggests that it would not be for the purpose of lighting just one cigar, but rather for lighting several or many cigars so it would have been for either a gathering of cigar smokers at either a large social event at a private home or perhaps at a club of some kind?

I am not sure what the letters stand for - they could be either the initials of a person or of an organization.

The 1867 date is a bit of a puzzle. The American war between the states ended in 1865 but there were many gatherings and organizations that were formed in the following years by the veterans. Also, for many years after the war ended it was quite common for fancy gifts to be given to the commanders and generals from both sides of the conflict by their former regiments. Perhaps this cigar lighter could have been something like that? Or, there were quite a few newly wealthy businessmen in the northern states who made their fortunes by supplying the Union Army (the side that won the war) - perhaps it was something purchased by someone like this?

One other thought is that it might somehow be related to the cigar industry. I did a quick google and found that in 1867 the cigar makers' union became the first workers union in the U.S. to accept women and african americans as regular members. That was also the year that the Cigar Makers' National Union of America changed its name to the Cigar Makers' International Union by accepting new local cigar makers chapters in Canada - making them 'International' and not just American. Perhaps it is somehow related to this? Maybe one of the cigar makers' union leaders either bought or was given this as a gift that year?

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Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 09-28-2009 03:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cigar lighters, were commonplace accessories (if, by commonplace, you imply wealthy, genteel, prone to smoking good cigars after dinner in the library, etc.) for men. Imagine a butler bringing a tray with a lit cigar lighter and a decanter of brandy into the library after dinner. Even with one person in the room the cigar lighter would also have provided a gentle light, but was clearly a luxurious accessory. I have seen others (Gorham, notably, made patinated copper cigar lighters in the Japanese style in the 1880s, and I know of one Pompeian style version by Dominick & Haff from the 1880s), but I can't say I've ever seen this model by Tiffany ever before. Of course, what was once a fairly routine little silver bibelot for a prosperous business man would have become an bizarre thing by 1920, and I'll bet lots of these were scrapped. Rare and valuable are not the same thing, but this object is a brilliant document of a bit of Victorian life that exists no more.

I would call this neo-grec--although Pompeian could well be a period term. I can also imagine Roman. The style really appears first in American silver in the late 1850s, and then takes off during the Civil War (in the north) and into the mid-1870s. But definitely not Aladdin (although I'm sure out there somewhere are Moorish or Arabian style cigar lighters). Lamp forms like this were inspired by Roman and Greek archaeological finds in the 19th century, and were also heavily symbolic of education and reading (hence libraries and cigars) in this period--the lamp of knowledge. I am assuming the big gothic M in the mark is for John C. Moore, who by this time was making silver exclusively for Tiffany. THe other letters are, I'm pretty sure, the initials of the lucky man whose wife or child gave it to him as a birthday gift or a Christmas present. I'm sure such things were exchanged by men in the context of clubs (or even groomsman gifts at weddings) but without any more than the initials, you can never be sure.

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Posts: 69
Registered: Nov 2007

iconnumber posted 09-28-2009 09:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Nyoman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Many thanks for all the insightful comments you all have provided. I've posted a more enlarged and detailed photo of the Tiffany mark to confirm its pattern number.

Mr. Kurtzman commented, "it's an uncommon though not rare piece", and Mr. Dietz later comments, "I know of one Pompeian style version by Dominick & Haff from the 1880s, but I can't say I've ever seen this model by Tiffany ever before."

These comments almost beg the question, what is rare versus uncommon in Tiffany silver? And, if I may, let me expand a little on what I mean by that question.

Mr. Dietz paints a fascinating picture (which I enjoyed immensely) of a Victorian smoking room or gentleman's parlor where in their time, such an item would likely have been commonplace, but by the 1920's or so, viewed as an oddity of sorts thus likely leading to many such items being scraped for their raw silver.

That logically assumes then that Tiffany produced more than just a few of these cigar lighters - thus, not rare by any means. However, if today they only survive in a few numbers (the melt down hypothesis), are they now to be considered rare?

In other words, is the distinction of uncommon versus rare more determined by the likely quantity originally produced by Tiffany, or should the distinction be determined more by known surviving examples? Aside from the example I linked to in my original post, (which is not this one I assure you), can anyone point to any other known examples? I'm not assuming that just because another example cannot be cited means that there are no others "out there" as surely there must, but given that no other can be found in the books, auction records, published collections, etc. wouldn't it be logical to consider this rare?

Once again, my profound thanks for all the discussion and time taken by the distinguished board members regarding this object. It is much appreciated!

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Posts: 414
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 09-28-2009 11:46 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Marc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi there Nyoman,

It is a grand piece of silver, and you may call it rare, or uncommon, whichever makes you feel more comfortable.

There are so many folks out there who do not want other people to know what they have in silver, or they will sell quietly, one to another. I would think that there would be a hundred or so homes in New York, that have one of these, not because they are uncommon, but because they are fabulous and "TIFFANY".


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Posts: 69
Registered: Nov 2007

iconnumber posted 09-29-2009 06:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Nyoman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hi Marc,

That's an interesting hypothesis you propose. I would have thought that these wealthy families would be more inclined to use auction venues so sell their silver holdings rather than trying to sell amongst themselves in some "quiet" manner.

Then again, I know I would surely enjoy a silver party far more than a Tupperware party! LOL.

Many thanks for your comments Marc! As I guess you can tell, I enjoyed them.

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Ulysses Dietz

Posts: 1265
Registered: May 99

iconnumber posted 09-30-2009 07:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is fun! Actually, the term rare as I use it means "rare now." Often, the most commonplace things from 160 years ago (or more) are rare now (i.e. vesta matches, ephemeral paper things, and the like. I challenge anyone to find an intact roll of toilet paper from 1894, when it was introduced--I recall the Henry Ford Museum being overjoyed at finding a ca. 1900 jockstrap belonging to the Firestone family, because such things, as you might imagine, are exceedingly rare now--and eeeew!)

It is hard to figure how common or not these cigar lighters would have been--it is not very elaborate, and thus wouldn't originally have been heart-stoppingly expensive--and might thus have been a standard-i.e. common - thing in Tiffany's repertoire. Certainly those big, expensive rococo teasets Tiffany had Grosjean & Woodward make for them in the 1850s are relatively commonplace today--because for some reason teasets have a high "keep me" value. Cigar lighters wouldn't have had the same keep me value, so they're rare.

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Posts: 69
Registered: Nov 2007

iconnumber posted 10-01-2009 04:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Nyoman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hmmm, this jockstrap thing has me thinking I should check my husband’s clothes drawer more carefully. If he has one, it wouldn’t be that old, but old enough! LOL!

That was very funny reading, and here I’m used to thinking that museum curators are so formal and stuffy. I’ll bet you’re a hoot to have at a party! Many thanks for the good chuckle!

And BTW, I haven't forgotten that I promised to post some very nice examples of Balinese silver. I will get to this soon, I promise!

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Posts: 2132
Registered: Nov 2002

iconnumber posted 10-02-2009 01:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Dale     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thinking about this question, all I can come up with is that cigar lighters fall into the category of men's items. Which is a meaningful distinction. One of the reasons that mens' vintage clothing is 'rare' compared to womens', is that men tend to use things until they literally fall apart. Women tended to be more fashion oriented and thus put things aside when styles changed.

So, I can imagine a man would use the same cigar lighter for a lifetime while his wife might go thru several tea sets. This might also explain why carving sets, a male item, tend to be much more used than the accompaning flatware. IMHE, it is not unusual to find a set of flatware with a carving set several decades older than the main set.

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