Light, both natural and artificial, has played an indispensable role in the perpetual progress and evolution of mankind. Humans had to depend on artificial light sources during the 12 hours of darkness or at nighttime. These man-made sources of light have come a long way from the primitive fire torches to stone tools to oil lamps to electric bulbs, incandescent tubes, and LED lights.
Talking about oil lamps, the earliest types used animal oil as fuel and focused more on functionality than on aesthetics. Slowly and gradually, the classic style of oil emerged in the 18th century that comprised of a cylinder-shaped glass holding the wicker and a base container storing kerosene oil. From the middle of the 18th cent until the time electricity was invented in the 19th cent, the oil lamps took on a more ornamental form.
Lamps dating from the early 18th cent till the late 19th cent that were carved out of clear and thick glass, cast iron, brass, steel, and many other materials qualify as antique oil lamps. For instance, the type most popular in the 18th cent, the Betty oil lamp constructed out of bronze, copper or tin are genuine antique pieces. Then again, the old glass lamps including but not limited to Victorian kerosene lamp, French figural oil lamp, and Victorian Majolica oil lamp easily meet the criteria for antiquity.
In case you own a few pieces of old glass oil lamps or lamps fabricated from other materials as heirlooms, and wish to sell these to make some money, you first need to be aware of some specific factors.
What are antiques?
Regardless of whether you’ve inherited or bought the oil lamps you possess, anything older than at least 100 years can be regarded as aged or antique, and hence collectible. However, this generalization for the most part, is subjective i.e. the antiquity of an old piece, irrespective of whether it is a furniture item, jewelry, painting or depression glass b bowl, depends upon its value in the eyes of the valuers and collectors. Also, the original value (in terms of money) and the final selling price of any antique oil lamp piece could vary considerably from one appraiser to another.
Nevertheless, the intrinsic value of an old item depends upon some distinct factors like its demand and supply position, designer’s or manufacturer’s mark, item’s age and condition. The origin or source (ownership history, place where it was manufactured, and so on), names of craftsmen or artisans who had a hand in making the piece, and antique-style trends also influence valuation.
Would your old and inherited oil lamps qualify as antiques?
So, when you are trying to determine and establish whether the old glass lamps you have are worth collecting or not, you’ll need to take the aforementioned parameters into consideration. When collectors or dealers attempt to evaluate the innate worth of a very old or aged oil lamp with the intention of purchasing or selling it, they chiefly take into account specific aspects. These elements are heritage, its condition (whether it is in one piece or is in a rundown state badly requiring restoration), designing/manufacturing marks, celebrity signatures, age, and provenance (place of origin).
Old glass oil lampsand lamps crafted from metals and other materials were designed keeping two vital aspects in mind-toughness or longevity and aesthetics. So, how much your oil lamps will be finally worth will invariably depend upon these two yardsticks. However, the various types and categories of oil lamps viewed as antique pieces by valuators are indeed myriad in range.
On the other hand, there are modern or newer versions that are also deemed traditional, classic or antique, and consequentially enjoy a remarkably high level of demand in the collectors’ market. Antique-styled pieces nearly resemble the lamps dating back to 17th and 18th centuries in appearance and function almost similarly but are less sturdy, and hence less valuable.Antique oil lamps from the Victorian era were shaped out of hand- blown glass typified by a distinct indentation or mark around the stem that demarcates the dividing line between the glass tube and the lamp.
The modern-day oil lamps have been manufactured in factories using the assembly line production technique and therefore do not have such identification marks. Also, the newer lamps have hardware that is quite different from the authentic antique pieces.
Condition and value of your antique oil lamps: Taking care
In order to hold on to the antiqueness and value of your old glass oil lamps, you should take meticulous care of them. For instance, never ever try to refinish or repaint the aged ones. By doing so, you’d be deleting the original patina or gloss-the ultimate value of the piece to a great extent depends upon the unique glaze and the changes in the texture which occur because of the ageing.
Offline and online price guides
There are several guidebooks and manuals that could help you with pinpointing the age of the pieces, recognizing the signature marks, and assigning a price to them. You can take the items to a dealer or professional collector or appraiser who could give you a fair idea of how much it might be worth. You can consult the topnotch online sites like Amazon.com, eBay, Ruby Lane, Craigslist, Webstore, and Artfire that offer a convenient platform to buyers and sellers for transactions.
However, owing to stiff competition between and amongst these sites, there is a high possibility that you may not get the right price for your antique oil lamps.
Keep the guesswork out: Have your antique pieces appraised by a professional valuator
Simply because your oil lamps appear old or very aged does not necessarily imply that they can be tagged with the antique label. There are multiple factors or aspects mentioned above that a valuer crosschecks before he or she can confirm whether a specific piece is worthy of collecting. If you are not sure or do not feel confident about valuing your pieces you consider as antique, then engage an appraiser for complete peace of mind.