Best of Treasures: The lamp may have been in the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel | Siouxland Homes

By Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson Tribune News Service

What can you tell me about this lamp that we inherited from my husband’s family? His mother told me she believed it was obtained after a renovation of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York in the early 1900s. The metal base is damaged by salt air. We believe this is a cloisonne style lamp and would be interested in any further history and monetary value.

This is a street lamp and we believe it has always been electrified. Our opinion might have changed had we been able to see the top of the piece, but in the photographs we have, the top of the fixture is hidden by a silk shade.

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel now stands on Park Avenue in Manhattan, but was originally located on Astor family property along Fifth Avenue. It started out as two buildings, the Waldorf Hotel and the Astoria Hotel (hence the merging of the names). The passage between the two buildings was known as Peacock Alley.

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This symbol of luxurious accommodation was opened in 1893 and demolished in 1929 to make way for the construction of the Empire State Building. The name “Waldorf” is derived from Waldorf, Germany, the ancestral home of the Astor family.

The name was “The Waldorf-Astoria” before 1949, when Conrad Hilton bought the establishment and gave the name a double hyphen Waldorf=Astoria. All hyphens were dropped from the name in 2009, but in the early 20th century New Yorkers used to say “Meet me at the hyphen”, meaning meet me at the Waldorf -Astoria.

The lamp in today’s question may have been in the original Waldorf-Astoria hotel – it was the first hotel to be fully electrified and have bathrooms in every room – but without evidence photographic or written documentaries, we can never be sure. The lamp most likely dates from the early 20th century and we believe it dates from after World War I (circa 1920).

Unfortunately, it’s not cloisonne or even “cloistered style”. Instead, it was made using a related technique known as “champlevé”. In the making of cloisonné, small cells are formed on a metal or ceramic body using wire to create barriers between glazes of different colors.

Champlevé, on the other hand, is formed by stamping, etching or etching depressions in a metal body and then filling the cavities with colored enamel. Overall, champlevé is a coarser technique and more serious collectors prefer items decorated with cloisonné.

Since receiving this request, we have reviewed a number of champlevé floor lamps and originally found that some appeared to have slag glass shades. The base appears to be Chinese with a nuance that was added later. Without a provable attribution from Waldorf Astoria, it would likely sell at auction in the $300-400 range and possibly be worth $600-800 at retail or perhaps a little more on the bargain market.

(Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson have written a number of books on antiques. Do you have an article you would like to learn more about? Contact them at Joe Rosson, 2504 Seymour Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917, or email Email them at If you would like your question considered for their column, please include a high resolution photo of the subject, which needs to be in focus, with your request.)

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