Why Buy An Antique Lamp

Reasons to buy an antique table lamp or floor lamp articles by Jim Hoyle

First let's define the term "antique lamp" as one from a bygone era which is a long indefinite time period. Determination of the age includes some time period designation normally in the form of "circa year". i.e. "circa 1905" which literally means "about the year 1905". So the term will be used on this basis and often substituted with the term "vintage".

So you have decided to purchase a lamp. There are numerous design questions to consider such as height, girth, color, style, function and of course price. But have you seriously considered searching exclusively for a vintage lamp ? Probably not. Our entire culture is so strongly influenced by advertising of mass produced products including lamps, that we are programmed to think only in terms of what has been presented by the mass merchants. Aesthetically this has huge repercussions because we all end up owning the same home decor items and nothing is exclusive or unique. You end up buying the same lamp that your neighbor bought, that his neighbor bought and so forth.

Here is a real life story that happened just this very week. A very nice interior designer from Gastonia who specializes in fine high design home decor came into my lamp shop here in Lincolnton, North Carolina. She was looking for a unique and special lamp for one of her clients. After visiting with us and looking around for some time, she found a 1 of a kind cast metal and onyx lamp which we had designed and made here. We label our lamps individually so that our customers know a little something about them while browsing so she knew this lamp was exclusive to our store and that only one lamp had ever been made. She brought the lamp to the register and told me how much she loved the design and the fact that it was truly unique. I explained to her that we designed and made this lamp and that it was not available anywhere else. She was so happy about this and she told me of another recent lamp purchase which she had made... She had recently found this certain lamp a dealer's store and she thought it was really nice so she bought it. She had the lamp for some weeks when she was out shopping and found the exact lamp at another store. Right then it became obvious that this was a highly produced lamp and there were likely many thousands of them in stores everywhere worldwide. Let's suffice it to say that her lamp stock suddenly plunged ! She took the lamp back to the dealer immediately.

The story above exemplifies only one reason why you should consider an antique lamp. There are many more reasons to purchase an one not the least of which is quality and craftsmanship. The overwhelming majority of lamps produced today are made of resin (poly) of one sort or another. This material is wonderful in the way it can be molded and painted plus it is cheap to produce. But you will probably end up throwing these lamps away sooner or later. The material is brittle, hollow, fragile and it chips and breaks very easily. You will likely not be giving these lamps to your grand children, not even your children. This poly resin material reminds me of the chalk ware lamps from circa 1950. These lamps are rarely if ever found in one piece. They were cheap back then and they are usually worthless now. Buying a poly resin lamp is fine as long as you know that you are buying a throw away product. Those from the late 1800's - 1930 were very commonly made of the very finest quality materials such as iron, brass, bronze, marble, onyx and steel. Many of these will still be around in another 100 years and their stock price is definitely up !

A very good reason to purchase an antique lamp is the current and future value. Many were produced around 1900-1930 commonly sell for 10 - 20 times their original retail price. It is not unusual to find numerous models selling for 100 times the original retail price. Some sell for incredible amounts compared to what they sold for when new - See World's Most Expensive Lamp. See Lamp Appraisals Plus Lamp History.

Finally, one of the best reasons to purchase an antique lamp is style and beauty. Many were produced during the Art Nouveau or Arts and Crafts period are magnificent and timeless and their beauty and design are mimicked throughout nearly every culture on earth. They were made with care and with pride to last for many generations to enjoy.

Why Buy An Antique Floor Lamp
More and more people are learning to appreciate the quality and styling of antique floor lamps especially as most of the ones being produced today are molded plastic and literally made to be thrown away. Most all floor lamp makers from the turn of the century made their lamps from heavy metals such as cast iron, brass, steel and cast zinc sometimes combined with marble, onyx, glass and stone. Our lamp shop regularly restores these for resale as well as for our customers' own use. From our 30 years of experience it is clear that many of these will last for hundreds of years. The electrical components, the fabric shades and the painted finishes often need restoration but most were made with such fine quality, that they are a much better value than brand new high end lamps that sell for many hundreds of dollars. You will find some other surprises about these collectible works of art below.

High quality, beauty and function were powerful influences on the lamp makers of the late 1800's and early 1900's. Many people are aware of their outstanding quality and beauty but completely surprised about the highly developed functional and technical characteristics. There are far too many examples to list here but I will mention a couple of the more important ones.

The brightest lamp that you can purchase today in any store was designed and made circa 1920. It is also the most versatile lamp that you can buy anywhere. Further it will outlast most any modern lamp that you can find at any price. This antique floor lamp is known by a numerous names such as: 6 Way Floor Lamp, 3 Arm Floor Lamp, Reflector Floor Lamp, and "JUNIOR". The design begins with a heavy metal base sometimes highly decorated with an upright tubing leading up to a central electrical socket surrounded by 3 arm lights (4 lights total). The central light takes a 3 way bulb (low-medium-high) that is often a MOGUL size which is larger than a standard socket with higher wattage (100-200-300 watts). The three arm lights are controlled by a switch that can turn on separately just 1, 2 or all 3 of the arm lights. Further, many of these JUNIORS had a small light under the base which provided a very subtle night time floor light operated by a foot switch mounted on the side of the base. As if this were not enough, the central top socket is encased in a large metal cup which holds a white waffle patterned glass bowl that reflects light upward to bounce of the ceiling. A fabric or silk shade (also called JUNIOR shade) rests upon the glass reflector bowl to reflect light downward for reading. A single arm light can provide a simple night light or at it brightest setting, it can light up an entire room. There is no brighter lamp or more versatile lamp available anywhere today and it was designed and made nearly 100 years ago !

One of the best reading lamps in the world was also designed circa 1920. It has been highly imitated but it still remains unchallenged. The Bridge Arm Floor Lamp or Bridge Lamp has a typical floor lamp design with metal base and upright standard which can take the form of various types of decorated tubing, twisted iron rods, etc. At the top of the standard is a decorative cast metal arm with a graceful arc or curvature which ends with an electrical socket pointing downward and covered by a fabric or glass shade. This has the effect of offsetting the light by about 14-18" from the upright standard at the same time lowering it so that it is closer to the reading material or work project. The result is an excellent reading lamp or work lamp which places the light bulb very near the task at hand. Many of these Bridge Arm Floor Lamps have convenient pull chains which hang below the bottom of the lamp shade for ease of operation.

Of course there are many other kinds of antique floor lamps such as torchiere, two light, curved arm, swing arm, etc. Even the oldest and most dilapidated of these well built heirlooms can be brought back to life with some scrubbing, sanding, painting, rewiring and sometimes soldering or welding.

If you want to buy a lamp that you can give to your grand kids, consider buying an antique floor lamp.

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