Treasure: Tiffany hallmark looks like the real deal

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Few things attract a collector’s attention like a Tiffany hallmark. Bob Swanborg knew the piece he inherited was marked with the well-known name, but wasn’t sure about its value or authenticity.

He brought the 7-by-5.5-inch vase to a recent appraisal session held at Judy Frankel Antiques in Troy, where Brian Thomczek took a closer look. “It belonged to my grandparents, who probably acquired it in the early 20th century,” he wrote in his original email. “I remember it in their home when I was a boy in the 1940s.”

Besides the hallmark, which reads Louis Comfort Tiffany, it is etched with the numbers 5560A. Thomczek informed Swanborg that the hallmark, which had a variety of forms through the years, dates the piece to the early 20th century. He also told him that the style is of an iridescent variety known as “Favrile,” which comes from the German word for hand-crafted. “I’ve seen a lot of Tiffany, both real and not, and this definitely looks right,” the appraiser told Swanborg. “The signatures changed over the years and there are a lot of forgeries, but this definitely looks legitimate.”

The website has an extensive history of the company and the marks used. “As the son of Charles Louis Tiffany, the founder of the successful multi-million dollar Tiffany & Co. jewellery (sic) business, Louis Comfort Tiffany was originally expected to oversee the family firm. Instead he chose to make his own unique mark on the world by following his passion for the creative arts and employing the good business sense he inherited from his father. After studying as a painter, Tiffany established a successful interior design company, Louis C. Tiffany & Associated Artists and from the mid-1870s, the company was very much in demand by wealthy society members with both Mark Twain and the White House featuring on the Tiffany client list. While working on his interior designs, Tiffany developed his long held fascination with glass, which he used extensively in his restyled interiors.”

The fact that Swanborg’s grandparents lived in New York City only adds legitimacy to the piece and its provenance, Thomczek said. . He estimated that the small vase would bring $1,200-$1,500 at auction, and that it should be insured for about $2,500 to $3,000 for replacement value.

Swanborg was happy to hear the news. “That definitely brightens my day,” he told the appraiser.

Florida Museum Houses Tiffany Treasure Trove: Florida trip on the horizon? Consider ditching theme parks for the Morse Museum, home to one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany pieces, in Winter Park.

Officially known as the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art (, it is best known for its collection of Tiffany works, one a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called “the most comprehensive and the most interesting collection of Tiffany anywhere.”

The scope is incredible, from leaded-glass lamps to huge windows to a breathtaking Byzantine-Roman chapel made for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. It also contains the largest single collection of objects and architectural elements created for Laurelton Hall, Tiffany’s Long Island residence, as well as works by Tiffany in every medium and type, including paintings, jewelry, blown and leaded glass, pottery, mosaics and art and architectural objects.

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 : Tiffany vase

Owner : Bob Swanborg

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek, Globe Midwest Adjusters International, Southfield

Estimated Value : $1,200-$1,500