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How to identify and learn about antique lamps?


Gentle Readers:

This free meeting place offers heavy search engine traffic and unlimited room for a community of enthusiasts to post Q&As, photos, history, commentary, & interesting tidbits.

Whenever readers show interest in their fellow enthusiasts' questions & situations, it turns informative & very interesting! :-)
But when people show no interest in anyone else's items, jumping right into asking about their own, it's becomes a boring string of unanswered questions :-(

Q. I have a set of lamps that have no markings but I'm sure they're worth something. Can you help me find out where I can get the value of them.

antique wrought iron lamp

Vicky M [last name deleted by Editor]
- Livingston Texas
November 10, 2023


"Antique Lamp
Buyer's Guide"

by Nadja Maril

from AbeBooks

or eBay or

Amazon

(affil links)

A. Hi Vicky
If you know something about the provenance of this lamp which gives you actual reason to think its valuable, you should google "antique appraisers" in your area or "on-line antique appraisers", but otherwise it's likely that the appraisal cost may exceed the value of an unmarked lamp.

So if you have no actual reason to think it's valuable, the best strategy is probably to look for similar lamps on eBay [adv: similar lamps on eBay] and Etsy and such places to get a feel for what people are asking. Don't worry, you don't need to find the exact lamp because things are only worth what someone will pay for them and the odds of someone paying far more for yours than for a rather similar one are slim.
Best of luck,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey






Q. I recently decided to clean up an old lamp that was my grandmother's. I thought it was brass, but it seems to be copper under a brass finish. Was there a time when that was a thing? Should I be using something other than Brasso to restore it?

L Barney
- Kunkletown, Pennsylvania
February 11, 2024


A. Hi L., Anything is possible, but my guess is that it's brass, and somewhere in the cleaning process the brass became "de-zincified" (copper enriched on the surface due to the zinc dissolving). If so, please see thread 35145 for pictures and the solution.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey




⇩ Closely related postings, oldest first ⇩



Q. I have an old lamp that needs to be cleaned, it had green and red spots but after using some vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] it only has some of the red spots left.
What is best way to clean those and how do you tell what metal it is?

Jason Hall
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States
2003


"Repairing, Rewiring, and Restoring Lamps and Lighting Fixtures"
by Rachel Martens

on AbeBooks

or eBay or

Amazon

(affil links)

A. The only dead easy step is to test it with a magnet. If it's magnetic, it is plated steel or iron rather than either brass or copper. Copper is not as strong and stiff as brass, and also more expensive, so it usually isn't used for lamps except when you want the color of a penny; brass is much yellower, bronze is browner.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


thumbs up sign  Thank You, the Lamp is not magnetic although the thinner pieces are golden and the thicker parts of the lamp have a deeper darker color. It looks like two different types of metal.

Jason Hall [returning]
- Ft. Lauderdale, Florida


Flitz
Metal Polish


on eBay or

Amazon

(affil links)

A. Hi again. The greenish color says it's partially copper, and whether it's brass, bronze, or copper, most metal polishes will be safe.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey




Q. I have applied Brasso [on eBay or Amazon affil link] to a hundred year old Middle Eastern coffee table. Initially it was almost black, and now it's as shiny as a penny. How do I MAKE SURE that it's actually copper and not brass. Is there a simple "homegrown" procedure to differentiate between both metals?

Joe Bigio
- Clearwater, Florida USA
November 30, 2010


A. Hi, Joe. Pure copper tends to be softer than brass as well as more expensive, and far less likely to be used in making things. But I'm not sure that your question is quite as meaningful as you'd like it to be ...
Brass covers thousands of alloy of zinc and copper, generally ranging from about 60% copper (muntz metal), through 70% (cartridge brass) on up to about 85% (red brass). If the table is the color of a bullet cartridge, or most lamps, or a bell, or the brass stanchions for the velvet ropes at a movie theatre, I'd call it brass.
Copper is closer to being pure; at about 99.3% it is called pure copper, but somewhat less than that for what are called dilute copper alloys. The impurity metals may be zinc, or lead, or iron, etc. If it's the color of a penny or a piece of wire or the bottom of a Revereware pot, I'd call it copper.

If you have a good friend who works at a scrapyard or metals warehouse, they may have access to a hand-held "alloy sorter" [on eBay or Amazon affil link], otherwise x-ray fluorescence analysis to come up with an exact grade or exact chemical analysis, would probably be expensive. Why must you give it the name brass or copper with such positivity?

Regards,
Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey




Q. I have a lamp which is a warrior on a horse, saying Good-bye to his love. Three stained glass shades. Cannot find markings. Bought out of a 100 yr old house. Any ideas on date made?

Teri Coleman
- Hempstead, texas USA
March 24, 2018


Painted metal statue lamps on eBay (affil link)

"All About Lamps: Construction, Repair and Restoration"
by Frank W. Coggins

on AbeBooks

or eBay or

Amazon

(affil links)

A. Hi Teri. This site focuses more on metal finishing issues than Antiques Roadshow issues. But if you mail a photo to mooney@finishing.com we'll post it here, which will increase your likelihood of getting a response.

Without a picture or any markings, there's probably no way to know that an artist/craftsperson didn't fabricate it yesterday :-(   Good luck.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey




Q. I have a pair of very old lamps that I have thought were bronze but am now thinking they are cast iron with some type of coating.
They are very dark. How can I tell?

ornate brass lamp with grapes & cherubs a   ornate brass lamp with grapes & cherubs b   ornate brass lamp with grapes & cherubs c

Gloria Reeves
- Georgetown, Louisiana
July 9, 2021


A. Hi Gloria. Cast iron and steel are strongly magnetic. Brass, bronze, and copper are non-magnetic. Zinc is also non-magnetic and commonly used today as a base/substrate for plating onto, but zinc was probably not used in very old lamps.
I suspect that those lamps are very heavy and that they are either mostly cast iron or cast brass depending on what the magnet tells you.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


thumbs up sign Mr. Ted, thanks for your reply. I tried a magnet and the product is nonmagnetic. As I examine these lamps I really think they were urns converted to lamps in the 30s-40s.

Gloria Reeces [returning]
- Georgetown, Louisiana

Ed. note: To this amateur they do look valuable :-)



Q. Any idea what this lamp is made of, and what the marking is inside the base, thank you.

painted metal statue lamp -2a   painted metal statue lamp -2b   painted metal statue lamp -2c  

Rita Wills
- London uk
July 12, 2021


thumbs up sign I hope you can figure it out. I believe I have two of those lamps as well

painted metal statue lamp -6

I paid over 300.00 Canadian per lamp.

Sheina Crisd
- Nanaimo B. C.


Painted metal statue lamps on eBay (affil link)



Q. Not sure what my lamp is made of and or if it's antique; please help.

undated brass lamp

Tracy Presley
- RICHMOND, Virginia
July 20, 2021


A. Hi Tracy. I can see a line running top o bottom through that lamp base and am guessing it's a parting line from a sand casting or die casting, but that's all I can tell. I'd probably just call it an old brass lamp.

My suggestion is to use it if you like it, or put it in the attic if you don't. Anything is possible, including a discarded lottery ticket you find in the trash actually being a big winner, but for the most part there is much more of this old stuff around than people presently want, so it has no real value. You'll probably see similar stuff on eBay for under $35, and remember that the posted prices are usually what people are asking, not what they are getting. You can get it appraised but most times the appraisal cost will exceed the appraised value. But times are always changing and your great granddaughter may consider such things treasures :-(

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey




Q. This lamp was given to me because it was broken and they thought I might could repair it or do something with it. Anyway I'm trying to identify the metal and if it can actually be repaired or re-soldered or cemented. Also have you ever seen a lamp like this? I was told it was Italian -- not sure if it was bought in the states or if it were shipped from Italy.

antique brass lamp with inset jewels -4a  antique brass lamp with inset jewels -4e

antique brass lamp with inset jewels -4f  antique brass lamp with inset jewels -4d  antique brass lamp with inset jewels -4b  antique brass lamp with inset jewels -4c 

There are no markings on the bottom. I have not found any anywhere else either. I was told the center base part is called oyster marble or something to that effect. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Chris Alexander
Hobbyist - Ocean Springs, Mississippi U.S.A
January 6, 2022


thumbs up sign Hi Chris. J B Weld epoxy [on eBay or Amazon affil link] is shockingly strong and would probably fix it. Few readers here including myself have much experience with antiques, let alone would be able to judge them from pictures ... but I would not touch that one until it is evaluated by a knowledgable antique dealer. My wild guess is that this is something quite valuable.

Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. Hi Chris_Alexander!

I was wondering if you had any luck identifying the lamp? The reason I ask is because I recently acquired a lamp about which I cannot find any information. There are no visible markings and I've also tried using Google Lens to see if there were any others out there that were similar - no luck.

During one of my usual fruitless internet searches, I came across this forum and the photos of your lamp. Although, our lamps are not the same (mine is a floor lamp), I saw some striking similarities which was the first glimmer of hope I've had in a long time. The base of the lamps are almost identical. I have not seen another one with this particular design aside from yours.

My floor lamp measures about 5 feet with a glass table and 4 hanging lanterns. It also has the most unique lampshade I've ever seen. My family hates it -- but I'm in love. Photos:

glass table floor lamp with hanging lanterns 5a   glass table floor lamp with hanging lanterns 5b   glass table floor lamp with hanging lanterns 5c  

I was hoping you could share any information you may have learned about your lamp in hopes it could guide me to the origin of mine.
Thank you!

Andrea theArtist
Artist - Dartmouth, Massachusetts USA
March 22, 2022

Ed. note: This site enjoys a 30-year+ legacy of camaraderie, community, & aloha which is unfortunately incompatible with anonymity :-(
Welcome! and feel free to read everything here anonymously ... but please don't post unless you are free to use your real name & town :-)


A. Hi. Looking at the electric wiring, which doesn't enter the bottom as it conventionally would, but through a small hole in the side that doesn't look big enough for anything but modern plastic insulated wire might mean that the lamp is not really old, or that it wasn't originally an electric lamp but something else converted to electricity.
Is there any indication that it might have originally been made for candles or possibly gas? Is there any old wiring (round, fabric covered)? Artifacts of a different use in earlier times?
I'm certainly no antique expert, but if you don't want to take it to one, we'll probably have to just say "it is what it is", which seems to be a charming, very eclectic modern looking shade, on a rustic lamp, with weird votive glass auxiliary lamps :-)
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey





Q. I have an old iron-looking stand up lamp given to me that had been in a house for over 50 years. The iron work is etched beautifully and it has 5 orange-goldish etched and kind of frosted globes. It has 5 lamps in it. There are 3 on top and 2 more down some, 1 on each side.

antique wrought iron floor lamp 8a   antique wrought iron floor lamp 8b  

Was looking for someone to let me know its origin. Has an ancient lamp cord on it. It does work! If you have any info on it I'd love to know!

Cynthia Tiner
Brunswick, Georgia
November 21, 2022


Q. I just bought the same lamp I was wondering if you ever found anything out about yours?

antique wrought iron floor lamp 9a   antique wrought iron floor lamp 9b  

Mine also had old wiring but has been rewired (just a long time ago). We got ours in Owensboro KY if that helps at all.

Melinda Lee Mack
- Charlotte Tennessee
May 13, 2023


Q. Also looking to also find origins of this lamp. Am wanting to restore to original state.

Dee Jennings
- Statesboro, Georgia
June 11, 2023


thumbs up sign Dee, where did you get yours, any idea of its age? So far, they seem to come from TN, KY or GA. Do your globes match Cynthia's or do they match Melinda's? Which globes are the originals, if either, might be a hint for other readers to be able to help you :-)
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey




Q. I was given 3 old metal lamps and before I start trying to clean them I would like to, at least, have an idea of the metal. It is non-magnetic and the 2 matching lamps are very heavy.

oil lamp converted to electricity c   oil lamp converted to electricity d   oil lamp converted to electricity a   oil lamp converted to electricity b  

Teresa Owens
- Ellaville, Georgia
August 6, 2023


A. Hi Theresa,
When you see hollow bulb-like shapes and flowery patterns, they were manufactured by casting. The weight tells you it's not aluminum, the lack of magnetic attraction tells you it's not steel or cast iron. That probably only leaves die cast zinc, brass, or bronze. Zinc corrodes pretty readily, brass & bronze much less. So going just from the pictures, what you've told us, and the fact that countless lamps are die cast zinc or include die cast zinc pieces, my guess is that it's die cast zinc, but I don't have enough experience with very corroded zinc and brass to be sure just from pictures that it's not brass.

It looks like thosee might be tanks for lamp oil.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. Thank you, Mr Mooney! What would you suggest that I use to clean it? I have been alternating between Brasso [on eBay or Amazon affil link] & white vinegar [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] and it seems to be working OK on the upper pieces, but that bottom is a real booger!

Teresa Owens [returning]
- Ellaville Georgia
August 10, 2023


A. Hi again Teresa. What you are using is probably fine, but the issue is that the base and legs are severely corroded away. Unfortunately there is no "cleaning" that back to anything resembling original condition because the metal isn't even there anymore.

The best you are going to be able to do is find a paint that is as close to the color and texture you seek as possible. Even so, if you want to do the best job possible you might want to squeeze/trowel on, and subsequently sand, some body filler [on eBay or Amazon affil link] to smooth things out before painting.
Luck & Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey





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