Olive oil lamps are lamps that burn olive oil for fuel. This type of lamp has existed for thousands of years and offers a convenient and pleasant lighting alternative to both electric lights and lamps fueled with mineral oils. All oil lamps include an oil reservoir of some sort as well as a wick to absorb and disperse the oil from the reservoir. These lamps vary widely in their design, however, and range from the very simple to the ornate and beautiful.
Oil lamps appeared at the very dawn of human history. Potters in the Mediterranean world produced thousands of olive oil lamps, typically in the form of a clay vessel with a central oil reservoir, a handle and a protruding hollow clay tube designed to hold and steady a wick. Oil was poured into the vessel, a wick was inserted and given time to become saturated with oil and then set aflame. Even simpler oil lamps were made by simply dropping a floating wick into a bowl of oil. These lamps could burn for hours and were key parts of household life in the world of ancient Rome.
Modern olive oil lamps have changed relatively little from their ancient ancestors. Any oil lamp can burn olive oil, as it wicks through cloth just as mineral oils do and burns cleanly and pleasantly. Antique hurricane lamps and modern oil candles can both serve as oil lamps if needed. Even tiki torches could be fueled with olive oil instead of citronella oil.
Individuals with a penchant for crafts can make their own lamps easily enough. Glazed clay vessels on the old Roman pattern can be interesting beginner projects. An amateur glassblower could create the body of an olive oil lamp, and finish it with fittings of metal and perhaps a wooden handle. A simple glass jar or metal bowl with wires to hold a wick in place can serve as well, for those people whose aesthetic preferences are simpler.
The key advantage of olive oil lamps is that they are quite environmentally friendly. Olive oil is an eminently renewable resource, and lower-quality olive oil, which burns perfectly well, is typically quite inexpensive and can often be procured for a lower price than petroleum-based lamp oil. The scent of burning olive oil is quite mild, but the curious can experiment with different infusions and can easily produce their own scented oil for use in oil lamps.