Antique Lighting

By Patricia Martin
Home Farm Antiques
at the Antiques Market Place

Some prefer new lighting in their homes, but many prefer the warm glow offered by antique lighting. Antique lighting is defined as lighting made prior to the 1950s. Why go with antique? If you are decorating in a certain period style, why use a new reproduction, when the real deal is available? More often than not, antique lights are less expensive than new. Antique lights offer precision in matching lighting with period décor, and they have the richness of the past reflected in them. If you decide to have authentic period lighting in your home, you can visit museums, historic homes and read about lighting in the past. Antique shops and shows offer a myriad of lights in a myriad of styles. Visit and you can talk to an expert, like the Antiques Market Place’s Ron Kroohn, who can show you which fixtures are appropriate to which era, and can give you good advice on use and safety issues.

There are a few precautions when choosing an antique fixture. Very important: have the wiring checked by a professional. This is not a complicated or expensive task. Most antique lamps can be made as safe as new ones. Another thing to look for when checking for safety is the metal used in the lamp. Early lamps were sometimes made by soldering together thin sheets of brass or other metal. Solder areas wear. Make sure that if there are any areas that look weak, you have them strengthened by a lighting professional.

The lighting field can be categorized to make it easier to find out what is what. There is Victorian, which is gas or coal gas lighting. Shades faced up to allow for adequate heat dissipation. Fixtures were highly decorated and showed graceful curves. Chandeliers were suspended from the ceiling with chains.

Immediately following was the Edwardian or Early Electric period, in which electricity overtook gas in popularity. Design changes were made, with straight rods used instead of chains and shades facing downward, allowing for cleaner, brighter light.

Craftsman style, associated with names like Stickley, Roycroft and Limbert, was down-to-business. Its design was proportionate and capable looking; its simplicity allows for it to be used in many different decors today.

Art Deco was during the 1920s-30s, in which design was sophisticated and had flair. (Think of an old Astaire/Rogers film.) This same design was evidenced in period art, architecture and furniture. Art Deco has really never been out of favor, and its versatility is a good part of the reason.

Our last category is American Vintage, which speaks of transitional lighting that had no distinct period characteristics, but could fit into many different eras and styles.

The treasure hunt is as exciting as the purchase. Enjoy scouting around for that perfect lamp and buy what makes you smile.