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What are Antique Lamps?

By B. Turner
Updated May 16, 2024
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Antique lamps are light fixtures from the past that have been re-purposed for current use. They may serve an aesthetic function when used in a room with an antique style, or a functional purpose when used to light a room. Many vintage lamps serve both of these functions, though some must be updated to work with modern lighting technologies. Styles of antique lamps vary widely, and include designs ranging from the 17th century through the Victorian era, as well as the 20th century art deco and art nouveau periods.

Buyers looking for antique lamps can choose from a wide variety of fixture designs. Traditional desk or table lamps are very popular, as are floor lamp models. Elaborate chandeliers add a touch of elegance and style, while wall sconces and overhead fixtures are also available. Even candelabras and other specialty fixtures are often classified as antique lamps.

Depending on the era when it was produced, an antique lamp may feature one of several types of lighting technologies. The earliest models were oil lamps, while later units relied on kerosene, candles, or gas to provide lighting. Some modern lamps from the 20th century may feature electric wiring, but may not be capable of functioning using today's light bulbs. Buyers may remove the existing lighting mechanism from antique lamps and replace it with modern wiring to enable the lamp to easily light a room. Others may use the lamp as part of an antique decorating scheme without modifying the lighting technology, hoping to preserve the lamp's value.

Most antique lamps consist of a metal base and oil burner, though some were made from crystal, wood, or glass. Some were fairly simple while others were carved or molded into figurines or objects from nature. The shade was usually produced separately by a different manufacturer. The elaborate glass lamp shades produced by companies like Tiffany, Handel, and Aladdin are among the most popular and well-known even today. These shades were designed with brightly colored glass that often included patterns or pictures of animals, flowers, or other figures.

The value of antique lighting can vary dramatically depending on the age, rarity, and condition of the lamp. Professional antique appraisers can provide the most accurate pricing, while prices provided in antique guides can also give a general price range. Buyers can find these lamps at auctions, estate sales, or antique shops.

Those who enjoy the look of antique lamps but can't afford the high price tag may consider antique-style reproductions. These lamps look like fixtures from the past, but often operate using modern technology. Another option is to choose an antique lamp in relatively poor condition, then have it restored and refinished by a professional restoration shop.

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Discussion Comments
By anon350660 — On Oct 07, 2013

Antique brass lamps are not really antiques. They can be state of the art modern lamps housed in brass finished with a finishing process that produces a certain patina known as antique brass.

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