Treasure: Art deco lamp shining example lighting of era

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Letters written to the column run the gamut from full of information and background about the antique item in question to completely devoid of details. The letter from Carol Johns was somewhere in the middle.

“This was given to my grandmother in 1930 from a Mrs. Mann in Chicago,” she wrote. “It’s not a Tiffany. No signature is found on it. What can you tell me about it?”

Johns filled in the few details she knew when she brought the lamp in for an appraisal session held recently at Judy Frankel Antiques, part of the Antiques Centre of Troy. There independent appraiser Brian Thomczek took a closer look at the vibrantly colored and heavy piece of vintage lighting.

“My grandma cleaned house for a lady in Chicago,” she told Thomczek. “I’m not really positive about dates or details but she said Mrs. Mann gave it to her and that’s about all we know. We always thought she probably bought it at Marshall Fields because we knew she shopped there, but we don’t know that for sure either.”

Eventually, the blue and yellowish tan glass lamp with its gilded filigree decoration was passed down from Johns’ grandmother, to her mother, and to her. She gives the heirloom a place of honor in her living room and keeps it away from the windows and out of busy traffic patterns to keep it safe.

Like everyone who sees it, she says, she has always admired it. Thomczek did too, telling her that she had a fine example of what is known as an early 20th century slag-glass table lamp. According to a fascinating article with a variety of illustrations on, (, the material was also known as marble glass or malachite, and, in its strictest definition, is a type of opaque, streaked pressed glass that originated in late-19th-century England. Glass manufacturers there are thought to have added slag from iron smelting to molten glass to create a range of effects and colors, some of which are very rare today. The process later spread to U.S. manufacturers, who, like the English, often used it in lampshades that filled rooms with multicolored light.

Thomczek dated Johns’ piece to approximately 1920s-1930s, not too much earlier than the piece probably entered into the family’s possession. He agreed that it definitely isn’t an example of a Tiffany-made lamp, which set the standard for art glass lamps at the time. “Tiffany obviously was the best-known maker of lamps of this type and this is in the style, but is definitely not a Tiffany,” he told her. Despite that, he says it’s a fine example of its type. “It’s art deco, and a very nice representation of the lighting of the era,” he told her. “It’s in wonderful condition, with no visible cracks and a beautiful color that would appeal to many people if you were to sell it.”

He valued it at $1,800-$2,000 if she were to replace it, or $800-$1,200 at auction if she decided to sell. Johns says there’s no chance of that. “Everyone has always admired it,” she says. “It’ll be kept in the family. I have three daughters.”

Do you have an object you would like to know more about? Send a photo and description that includes how you acquired the object to: The Detroit News, Trash or Treasure?, 160 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226. Include your name and daytime telephone number. You may also send your photo and description to If chosen you’ll need to bring the items to an appraisal session. Photos cannot be returned.

About This Item

Item : Slag-glass lamp

Owner : Carol Johns

Appraised by : Brian Thomcsek, independent appraiser

Estimated value : $800-$1,200 at auction