If you're thinking about transforming your sunroom into an opulent Victorian parlor, then adding an antique kerosene banquet lamp or two is a must. Large, ornate, and highly decorative, these lamps create a stylized, yet historically authentic look, and are highly popular with collector communities today.
Antique Banquet Lamp Characteristics to Look For
Banquet lamps were immensely popular during the 19th century and then again during the Victorian revival in the 20th century, and market demand caused manufacturers to produce millions of these light fixtures. They're still reliably in-demand today, meaning that you have to be on the lookout for reproductions which sellers might market as authentic antiques and cheat you out of a hefty sum. So, it's important to look for a few key characteristics when you're browsing your local antique store's shelves and aisles to pick out the real banquet lamps from the imitations.
These characteristics include:
- Removable fount
- A vase
- Decorative stem
- Globe, often painted, glass shades
- Often large, as much as 40 inches tall with the chimney
While there are other types of antique lamps that may have some of these details, most of these characteristics must be present to be considered a genuine banquet lamp.
Antique Banquet Lamp Designs
The banquet lamp is often called the Gone with the Wind lamp by collectors and laypeople alike since they were so prominently featured in the backdrop of the film. However, the banquet lamp wasn't actually in use until about 1880, 20 years after the period in which the film was set.
These lamps were made in numerous combinations of both designs and materials, though they generally abide by a circular glass shade and painted or colored decoration of some kind. Some of the common materials that these lamps were made out of include:
- Milk glass
- Pattern glass
- Cased glass
- Cranberry glass
- Satin glass
These lamps signaled both affluence and good taste within Victorian society, and they could be found in parlors, libraries, and reception halls throughout the late 19th century. They were popularly sold until about the 1920s, when electricity became a more common feature in most homes and residents didn't have to rely on kerosene to light their way. Even so, many homeowners converted these beautiful lamps to electricity and kept right on using them, so you can actually find antique kerosene lamps that've been retrofitted for electricity on the market.
Antique Kerosene Banquet Lamp Values
Since antique banquet lamps were so ornate and unique, they can command extremely high prices among collectors. The more intricate the design, the higher the price can be. It's not unusual to find an antique banquet lamp in good condition for around $100-$250 in most areas of the country, and you could pay more than $900 for an elaborate and well preserved lamp in excellent condition.
This value can be determined by a number of different things:
- Condition - Are there cracks, chips, or scratches? Is the pattern bright and intact? Does the lamp have all of its parts and are they in working condition? Has it been electrified?
- Desirability - While all banquet lamps are desirable, some are more so than others. A unique, hand painted design or especially elaborate fount or base will add value.
- Provenance - Who owned it? If it was used in the White House, on the set of a movie, or has some interesting story about its past, it may well bring more than another, less interesting lamp.
- Rarity - As always, the rarer an item is, the more people will pay to own it.
- Location - Antiques vary in price all over the country. Some areas seem to value a particular type of antique over another. In addition, a banquet lamp will probably be more expensive at an auction of antique lighting or Victorian objects than it would at an auction where a variety of antiques were being sold.
Banquet Lamps on the Market
When you're actually looking to bring one of these lamps into your collection, you'll be able to find the most varied selection online. Some of the antique banquet lamps that've recently sold on eBay fall right into this $100-$250 price range, with special lamps reaching prices the low-thousands.
Where to Find Antique Banquet Lamps
You can find antique kerosene banquet lamps in almost any local antique mall or store as well as online. Consider the following websites as places to start your search:
- Salado Creek Antiques - Salado Creek Antiques focuses on bringing in inventory from the American past and has a large selection of high-quality banquet lamps to choose from.
- Ruby Lane - One of the internet's largest auction websites, Ruby Lane features a constantly rolling inventory and you can find so much more than just antique banquet lamps there.
- eBay - Everyone's go-to spot to search for collectibles online, eBay is one of the easiest places to look for antique fixtures like banquet lamps and you're almost always guaranteed to find at least a few currently listed for sale each time that you visit.
- Etsy - Etsy is a modern, stylized version of eBay with a growing antiques sector. From banquet lamp parts to full-blown sets, Etsy consistently has some of these delightful light fixtures for sale.
When you buy any of these online, always check the seller's rating and his return policies. Get your package insured so that if anything happens, you won't have lost your money.
Where to Find Replacement Shades
Often you'll find a lamp you absolutely love, but it'll be without a shade, or come with a cracked or chipped glass shade. If this is the case, you can check the following shops for replacements:
- Antique Lamp Co. - Head on over to the Antique Lamp Co., a restoration and replica parts business based out of Buffalo, New York, for a small selection of banquet lamp glass shades.
- Specialty Lampshades - From colorfully painted to entirely translucent, Specialty Lampshades offers a selection of all kinds of replacement shades, including the ball shades suited for banquet lamps.
- Antique Lamp Supply - Admittedly, antique lamp supply has fewer options than the Antique Lamp Co. and Specialty Lampshades when it comes to banquet lamps specifically; however, if you're looking for a straightforward design like a milk glass or translucent glass ball shade, then you can easily find them there.
Bring the Beauty of Banquet Lamps Home
Finding the perfect antique oil lamp to complement your home may take time, but once you do find the perfectly designed fixture, you'll be rewarded with a tangible piece of history. Whether you want to keep it as a kerosene lamp or want to have a professional convert it to be electric, these lamps immediately add a certain sense of authenticity to any room that they're featured in.