Treasure: Tiffany-style lamp shines with intrigue

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Of all of the interesting objects brought in for the most recent appraisal session at DuMouchelles, Ron Rafferty’s lamp brought some of the most oohs and aahhs. Shoppers there for the February auction preview did double takes and took a closer look at the tall gilded and pierced lamp with its intricate shade. One of the youngest appraisers at the auction house openly coveted it, saying she had never seen anything like it.

The lamp has that effect on people, says Rafferty. He first saw it in the 1960s at the Pontiac home of a friend. When she passed away, it was among a variety of things he inherited from her estate. Many pieces were sold in a subsequent estate sale, but Rafferty ultimately decided he couldn’t let this piece go. “It’s one of the things that I really didn’t want to go in the estate sale,” he told Bob DuMouchelle.

He remembers admiring it in her living room, where it sat on a table in front of a large fireplace. “The light cast a pattern all over the room,” Rafferty remembers. “It was just beautiful.”

The intricate nature-inspired shade follows in the tradition of Tiffany but was definitely made later, probably somewhere between the 1940s and the 1960s, the appraiser said. Because Rafferty remembers seeing it in the 1960s, he knows it’s at least that old.

The only small identifying mark on it is the letters GIM and the number 537 on a top piece of the stem. DuMouchelle said he was able to find references to a New York company named GIM Metal Fabricators Inc. but little more background about the piece itself or the company who made it. “It’s tricky,” he says. “This is one of the challenges of the business.” The number was probably a serial number, he says. He found a few similar lamps online, but “couldn’t find anything even close to this in appeal,” he said. Unusually tall, the lamp includes five light sockets and a pierced shade with detailed leaves and vines. “A lot of their lamps seem to have piercing,” the appraiser said of the company. “Some had mica shades, others had slag glass and some jewel-like glass.”

“For years, I thought it was Italian,” Rafferty told DuMouchelle, adding that he thinks his friend purchased the lamp at an estate sale. “I should have questioned her about it years ago.”

While many GEM and similar lamps sold online in the $200-$600 range, DuMouchelle said Rafferty’s light is special and the value he gave him reflects that. “This is in a different class that everything else I saw,” he explained. “I like this shade much better. It’s an unusual animal. I found others but none as cool as this. It has a really dramatic look to it. I like the intricacy, the jeweling reminds me of Tiffany. It has everything I like about lamps, including drama and structural integrity. It’s well made, there’s no doubt about that. I just wish we could find out more about who made it. I really could see this on the set of ‘Mad Men’ or something.”

Because of its attractiveness and appeal, DuMouchelle valued it at $1,500-$3,000 at auction. Rafferty says he plans to keep it – for now. “She had white lights in it,” he told the appraiser. “We have yellow and gold, so at night we get a goldish glow all over the room.”

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. Letters are edited for style and clarity. Photos cannot be returned.

About this item

Item : Lamp

Owned by : Ron Rafferty

Appraised by : Bob DuMouchelle, DuMouchelles

Estimated value : $1,500-$3,000 at auction