Stylish Lighting
By Karen Parr-Moody

In 1879 Thomas Edison launched the first commercially successful incandescent lightbulb, spawning a massive movement among Victorians as they adapted to the new technology. This life-changing invention soon created a new item of beauty on which designers and artisans could focus: the lamp.

Banquet lamps, like the one in the photo, right, have long been seen on buffets in dining rooms and include versions that pre-date electricity's invention ($198; Booth B-106). This one, sandwiched between two Victorian "lustres," has been rewired to work safely during modern times. It has an etched base and crystal prism drops.

Each of these cranberry glass lustres, also known as a "lusters," is decorated with dangling crystal prisms and floral motifs (pair, $595; Booth B-106). Such glass beauties were found more than 100 years ago in the more prominent homes; they were expensive, even back then. Pre-dating electricity, they were used to hold candles and were set in pairs on a mantle or sideboard. Whoever owned this particular pair kept them together all of these decades, which was not always the case. A pair of lustres would often get split up between daughters as part of an inheritance.

Slag lamps, such as the one seen here at left, were extremely popular during the Art Nouveau period ($595; Booth B-106). Art Nouveau, the French term meaning “new art,” described the decorative arts period that began in the late 1800s and lasted until the Roaring Twenties. On the heels of the Victorian look, and slightly overlapping Art Deco, Art Nouveau was a product of many influences and a precursor to modernism, with silhouettes that tended to include the fluid lines of nature, as seen with this slag lamp.

Slag lamps were made by many companies, including Louis Comfort Tiffany, Roycroft and Steuben. The lamp shown here dates to the early 1900s and has its original curved glass panels, a fancy top finial and a top plate. It the features flowers and scrolling that were typical of the Art Nouveau period and is signed on the base “Royal Art Glass Co.” Slag glass, also known as marble glass or malachite, is a type of opaque, streaked press glass that originated in England in 1878.

The lamps in the photo, right, are of cut crystal glass stems that explode into a waterfall of sparkling prisms. They are from the Art Deco period, which occurred during the “between the wars” years the spanned from the Roaring '20s up until the beginning of World War II. It was then that the "waterfall" motif was popular in furniture and in tabletop items. Art Deco looked to the future while drawing from the past. Global excavations, such as the 1922 discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt, inspired the ziggurat design, for example — a stepped pyramid design — that became an Art Deco trademark. Other designs typical of Art Deco included sweeping curves, such as those seen in this lamp.

On the heels of the Art Deco period emerged the Mid-century Modern period in which the lamps, photo left, were created (one of a pair, $58 each; Booth B-106) . Taking the modernity of Art Deco to another level, designs during this period focused on symmetry and streamlining. This lamp is one of a beautiful matched pair that feature vertical ribs in a sweeping, curvaceous design. It is a striking look that is at once dramatic and controlled.

Antique and vintage lamps infuse any room with style, emphasizing form as heartily as function. At GasLamp, the wide selection includes a variety of beauties, with lights that pre-date electricity, such as lustres, and many others that were created after electricity's invention. Beyond being beautiful,  such lamps are shining beacons of illumination and history.

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