This example is a contemporary fantasy table lamp that closely resembles a scenic overlay lamp design that was originally made by the Miller Lamp Company in the early 20th century. Scenic overlay and metal filigree table lamps with slag glass inserts were popular table lamp designs in the early part of that century and many companies made them. The Miller Lamp Company made very high quality lamps that were not inexpensive. Their table lamps were heavy, exceedingly well made and lovely when lit.
Many modern companies today are busy making scenic overlay and metal filigree lamp designs, again. They are useful, as well as in demand for interior decoration, since there are only so many truly old lamps to go around. While these new lamp designs may simulate the look of authentic old table lamps, however, the companies that make them, today, don't advertise them to actually be 'old.' Only on the secondary market do contemporary, decorative fantasy pieces start to become problematic for collectors. A seller may have never personally seen or handled a true scenic overlay lamp of the period. They may offer an incorrect identification for such items because they may be unaware similar new items are being made and so mistakenly assume an item made in this form has to be old. Which is not the case.
Antique and vintage electric lamps being put back into service in a modern home will generally receive some new parts, for safety reasons. New electrical components like plugs and cords or other wiring and sockets may be present and collectors often take these amendments in stride. This can create a problem, however, since lamps that are actually very new, still wearing the same cords and other components given to them by their contemporary maker, can likewise be suggested to have received similar replacements, to explain why those components still look so new. A felt base cover that has little wear or evidence of age can be said to have been added only when the lamp was re-wired. So it is necessary to be sure to examine detail and components that will always have remained present on a lamp when considering whether or not it is authentically old, or not. There is a need to know what is 'right' about a lamp shade or base, and what is not.
The detail of the scenic design on the lamp shade in this listing, for instance, is quite poor in comparison to similar shade designs made by Miller Lamp. The applied surface color is wrong and the high shine is a modern characteristic. Though the 'bronze' color may give the lamp the semblance of age from a distance it can actually be easily seen at close range to have been applied not 'acquired.' It lacks the warm patina granted by age.
Look at the top section of the shade in this example, too. It has a gentle umbrella-like curve in the top sections that is pleasing to the eye. But the glass pieces inside the lamp that correspond to the curves in the metal are completely flat.
Authentic period scenic overlay lamps with similar curved forms had slag glass panels inside that were bent to closely follow the exterior curves in the metal skin of the shade. Their forms were complimentary. Glass and metal were married. But, on the shade in this listing large spaces can be seen between the exterior portion and the glass inside. That occurs because interior and exterior component shapes are not complimentary. Bending and shaping individual panels of glass to match a shade shape exactly is exacting and expensive. Most modern makers aren't going to waste money attempting to bend their slag glass panels. This type of manufacturing shortcut can be obvious and easy to see.
While the shade may seem quite heavy with glass in it, the low quality of the metal used to make it would be quite easy to judge if the glass were absent. The shade is made of a very thin, white metal which can be easily damaged. The red arrow in the image of the side of the lamp here in this listing points to an area where damage has occurred. Beaded trim has popped off, which allows the light base metal used to make the shade to be visually scrutinized.
Other than attempting to judge the weight of the metal in the shade, there is often another characteristic of newer lamps that will be somewhat easier to discern. It may also prove to be somewhat of a hazard. The bases on many 'modern-pretending-to be old' lamps quite frequently (and surprisingly) will also be made of a very thin metal or, sometimes, another lightweight substance like resin or wood, colored to look like bronze. What this means is that new bases are often not very heavy. The glass in a shade may sometimes even surpass its base in weight. This can create a very top-heavy arrangement, a table lamp that could easily be toppled over.
The lamp shown in this listing was purchased from a well-known department store chain in 1990.
Measures 23 inches tall and the shade is 17 inches wide.
Illustrations and Characteristics for Help in Identifying Many Confusing New Items
Item listings in this shop are intended to be viewed for educational purposes, only. Items in this shop are not for sale.