How to Buy an Affordable Antique Lamp

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How to Buy an Affordable Antique Lamp

Finding an antique lamp that suits a home's décor and functional requirements can be a tall order. Finding one on a budget adds another wrinkle to the search. There is no shortage of antique lamps on the market, with pieces from many different eras and of varying construction. The following topics will be covered in this guide: a brief history of the lamp, a look at the different types of antique lamps, the different genres or artistic epochs of antique lamps, factors to consider before making a purchase and ways to best maintain it. This guide will also consider factors that will help to find an antique lamp at an affordable price.

History of Lamps

The history of the lamp is intertwined with the history of technology. Beyond just being an aesthetic piece of furnishing, the lamp's ability to provide light grew as the pace of scientific and technological achievements quickened. The first lamps, mere torches, date back to 70,000 BC. These were crudely hollowed rocks or shells, filled with moss or other combustible substance, and doused with animal fat for fuel. The ancient Greeks were the first civilisation to improve upon this around 700 BC, with the development of pottered earthenware lamps, also known as terra-cotta lamps.

Different variations of pottered lamps were used the world over until superseded by new and better innovations. The invention of a central burner which could safely burn hot oils came courtesy of Swiss Chemist Ami Argand. This in turn led to his creation of the first oil lamp with a glass chimney in 1783. This technology quickly spread to all metropolitan areas around the world. By the early 19th century gas had taken over from oil as the dominant fuel for interior home lamps and exterior street lamps.

Discover Affordable Antique Lamps

Some say the golden age of antiques is over, prices are too high, and the average person simply can't join in the pastime. By that logic, anyone on a budget will have to shop at a big box retailer, settling for an antique lamp reproduction. None of this is true. In fact, the online marketplace has created much more opportunity for finding affordable antiques than there ever was before. Consumers are no longer restricted to their local antique stores, flea markets and garage sales to find a good deal on an antique lamp. Nor are they restricted to only those lamp styles that were produced in their own geographic location. So with a little information and effort, any new collector can find an affordable antique lamp, and add its distinct style and charm to their home.

Antique Lamp Parts

There are many types of antique lamp design, but they can be broken into two essential groups ─ the oil and kerosene variety and the electric variety. Here is a list of parts for each of these types of lamp.

Oil & Kerosene Lamps




May have a carved design; supports the remainder of the lamp.

Pouring hole

Oil is poured through this hole and transported to the fuel chamber.

Wick hole and nozzle

The lamp may have an opening or an extended nozzle where the wick extends to the chamber, is doused in oil, and then lit.


A lamp may include a handle, but not always. The handle shapes include triangular, crescent shaped, or semi-oval.


The coiled spiral-like nozzle structure of a lamp.


Made of linen, flax, papyrus or other absorbent material, it is placed over the nozzle and runs down into the fuel chamber.

Font or Fuel chamber

Where the oil is poured to maintain the heat and lighting.


Shields the flame and focuses the light.

Electric Lamps




Supports the socket and shade.


Turns the lamp on or off.


Usually brass, the socket houses the on/off switch and wire assembly.


Supplies power to the lamp, it runs from the socket through the base and into the wall plug.


Shields the bare bulb and focuses the light where desired.

Types of Antique Lamps

There are many different types and styles of antique lamps. Below are some of the most popular:





Astral Lamp

Kerosene lamp, tall with a circular reservoir. Uses Argand burner.

Casts a brilliant light.

Height makes it susceptible to toppling.

Gone with the Wind Lamp

Kerosene lamp. Has a matching glass shade and font.

Very decorative style that brings the charm of the American, 'Old South' to a room.

Reproductions became popular in the 1970's.

Slag Glass Panel Lamp

Electric lamp with opaque coloured glass shade, containing creamy streaks.

Very suitable for a bedside table lamp.

Popular from the late 1800's to World War II.

Rochester Lamp

Glass and brass oil lamp in common use by students.

Designed to push the light downwards for studying.

Extremely popular even after the advent of electricity.

Victorian Lamp

Ornate base and shade.

Solid construction.

May be too elaborate for some room décors.

Art Nouveau Lamp

Electric lamp with curving lines and lily shades, with usually more than one light extending from base.

Multiple lights allow for different areas to be lit.

This style came back into vogue in the 1990's.

Factors to Consider When Buying an Affordable Antique Lamp

A key advantage to shopping for an affordable antique lamp on eBay is the large selection, which is rarely available when shopping close to home. And the bigger the selection, the easier it is to find a bargain. Here are some other factors to consider:

Buy Restored

Purchasing an antique lamp that has been restored is a good way to save money. A similar un-restored lamp in good condition could be twice the price. Learn the details of the restoration and adjust the budget accordingly.


A restored lamp might look better, but in the antiques world it's not always better to restore lamps to their original glory. Replacement bases are common on antique table lamps, usually because the original base was damaged. If the work was done properly then the lamp should hold its value. However, if the restoration has been poorly done, it could devalue the lamp.


Consider where the lamp is going to be placed, how much space it will occupy, and what other pieces of furniture might work well in the room. Clear answers to these questions will make the selection process.


Take the antique lamp to a local electrical or hardware store. If the wiring is eroded or faulty it will need replacing. Take note: this will slightly lower the value of lamp. A decision will need to be made as to whether the lamp needs to be functional or simply decorative.

How to Care for an Affordable Antique Lamp

Regardless of cost, an antique lamp deserves special care and maintenance. For very old pieces it may be best to consult a professional on the care of your antique lamp. That said, here are some tips to help retain the integrity and appearance of an antique lamp should individuals decide to take it upon themselves.

To clean the base, remove the lamp shade and wipe it down with a slightly damp cloth. If the lampshade is made of fabric, and depending on its condition, it can be submerged in water. Place it inside a tub of water and add a little mild soap. Use a cloth to gently clean dirty areas while the shade is submerged. Rinse the shade with clean water and hang to dry. If a shade cannot be submerged, dust it off with a dry cloth and wipe it down with a mild solution of water and liquid soap.

Finding Affordable Antique Lamps on eBay

Once you determine the type of affordable antique lamp you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on the 'Antique Furniture' sub-category, then the 'Lamps' sub-category and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching for Affordable Antique Lamps on eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for affordable antique lamps. For example, to find affordable antique lamps, type 'affordable antique lamps' into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay's Search Tips page for more advice on searching for affordable antique lamps with keywords. If you can't find the exact affordable antique lamp you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


In a category so full of choice and variation, knowledge goes a long way. Antique lamps can be a functional addition to the home or simply an aesthetic complement to your existing décor. Antique lamps come in a variety of styles, shapes and sizes and truly make for a less common collectable item, certain to be a conversation piece at any gathering. Whether kerosene or electric, you can find a wide variety of affordable antique lamps available for sale on eBay. Once you have collected this information, you can buy an affordable antique lamp safely and securely on eBay.

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