Tiffany Studios Bronze Zodiac Pattern Letter Opener
Tiffany Studios produced desk sets in many different patterns. Most of the patterns are still known by the names that Tiffany originally used, except for "Etched Metal and Glass". Today it is divided into two distinct patterns - "Grapevine" and "Pine Needle". These two patterns are the only two that combine glass with a pierced metal overlay. Occasionally a variation is found. One is sometimes referred to as "Grape Trellis" and another is "Woodbine".
Tiffany used several finishes on their metalwork, including lamp bases. Patina finish and gold doré are the most common. The gold finish was applied by electroplating the object with 24K gold. Gold finishes come in smooth or "doré". "Doré" refers to the acid speckling found on many Tiffany objects. This is really a misnomer as doré comes from the latin for gold. Tiffany also produced an in-between finish referred to as "statuary bronze doré". This finish has the acid speckling of gold doré, but is darker. The rarest finish on Tiffany objects is silver. Most probably it was special order.
Some patterns come in more than one finish. For example, Zodiac desk pieces come in patina, gold doré, statuary bronze doré, and rarely in silver. Other patterns are found in only one finish. Bookmark, Ninth Century, Abalone, and Venetian are examples of one finish patterns. Variations can still be found. Occasionally hand enameling was added to some patterns such as Zodiac or Bookmark. Colored stains add another variation. These were sometimes put in the recesses of patterns like Bookmark.
For every collector there is a different style of collecting. Some collectors stick with one pattern. Some try to collect enough pieces to make a nice display on a desk. Others are looking to find every known piece in a particular pattern. This can get quite challenging after accumulating several pieces. (There are over 70 different desk pieces known in the Zodiac pattern.) Other collectors are looking for one item, such as a postal scale, stamp box or inkwell in every known pattern. Still others just buy what pleases them, regardless of the pattern. Collecting styles are as varied as the personalities of the collectors.
Many desk pieces found today are in poor condition. Sometimes there is damage to the glass, jewels may be missing, or the patina or gold plating may be rubbed off. For some items it may make sense to restore them. This may entail some glass replacement, hinge repair, replating, or repatination, etc. The results are usually dramatic. Desk pieces that are professionally restored are worth owning and collecting.