Antique gas lamps have been around since the 19th century.
They provided better lighting and were safer than candles. With the invention of gas lighting, gas lamps saw an explosion of growth and are still a popular choice for Victorian homes today.
In this article, we will explore the history of lamps, particularly antique gas lamps, certain styles of gas lamps, and how to find out what they’re worth.
History of Lamps
The discovery of fire changed the course of human history. It provided warmth in winter and better-prepared food. Lamps date all the way back to 70,000 BC, with the earliest forms made from shells or hollowed-out rocks. This was probably the first ‘portable’ lamp.
Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome brought forth the decorative oil lamp. This simple contraption consisted of a dish to hold oil and a wick to burn fire.
From then on, the lamp kept evolving.
Possibly the first nod to gas lamps comes from the work of William Murdoch. Murdoch worked at a factory during the Industrial Revolution and experimented with coal gas. In England in 1792, he lit his house with coal gas, and a few years later he lit the inside of the factory he worked for, and then in 1807 gas was used to light street lamps.
Antique gas lamps became wide-spread at the beginning of the 19th century, but not perfectly. For many years, only the wealthy could afford them, and plenty of explosions, black soot, and less oxygen surrounded this invention. The gas was supplied through pipes that ran underground, much like today.
With all its remarkable positive benefits (better lighting in homes, less maintenance of candles, somewhat safer, convenient), gas lighting was short lived with the introduction of the light bulb in the late 1800s.
Today, gas lighting is still used, though it is not nearly as much.
Styles of Lamps
The popularity of gas lamps in the late 19th century created a demand for wealthy Europeans to desire more lamp styles for their homes.
The most common and probably truest gas lamps are:
- pendant lights
- wall sconces
These antique gas lamps have a couple distinguishing characteristics.
- open bowls made of glass or ornate to hold the light
- an on-off valve to disperse the gas
Neoclassical, Rococo, Victorian, Greek Revival, and Baroque styles were preferred at the time gas lighting emerged.
Because chandeliers were used with candles before the introduction of gas, these were adapted to be used for gas lighting. Chandeliers were often used to light large rooms.
Some characteristics of gas-lighting chandeliers are:
- a means to supply gas to burners
- a valve to turn the gas on and off
- hung by a downrod
- open shades to let out heat
Smaller rooms like kitchens, bathrooms or hallways relied on pendant lights. Pendant lights shared similar characteristics of chandeliers.
Wall Scones were used to supplement light in a larger room. Same look as pendant lights and chandeliers, with one exception: they needed a pipe that came out of the wall to supply the gas.
Conclusion: Value of Antique Gas Lamps
Antique gas lamps can have a wide range of value, from very little money to a significant amount.
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