Antique glass lamp shades
Antique glass lamp shades date back a century or more, to the time when lighting was powerd by oil or gas, but also including the earliest appearance of electrical lighting. Glass is the material that most people think of when referring to antique shades, however there are also mica lamp shades that date from the early 20th century which one might call antique mica shades.
Examples of antique glass lamp shades
Tiffany and Handel are two designers who made stained glass lamp shades that are widely considered to be vintage or antique. However, the classification extends to any product made before completely mechanized mass-production. For example, old style banker lamp shades can be also considered vintage.
The advent of gas power
When gas piping was first laid into the ground for metropolitan areas that could support investment in such infrastructure, it became possible to erect and maintain a large number of lamps and antique glass lamp shades through city streets. No longer would an army of workers be needed to truck in a large amount of oil and refuel at the antique lamp shades periodically. The gas structure meant that fuel delivery was consistent, automatic and extremely affordable. During this time, homes and streets were powered by numerous natural gas delivery pipes criss crossing the cities. However, the advent of electricity meant that gas was on its way out.
The heralding of electricity
Electricity was far easier to maintain, and had fewer of the safety problems associated with live fuel lines and open flames. With this, the gas shades quickly died out. As such, the shades of that time, Victorian England, have been associated with gas lighting since. This style is distinctive and evocative of a particular era when England was at its technological and military might, and Queen Victoria ruled over lands stretching across the globe. Although you may not be able to find a real Victoria shade, there are many craftshouses that specialize in recreating the same style.
The battle between Tesla and Edison
Soon after the spread of gas, electricity rose to become a prominent competitor for supplying continuous energy to homes and businesses. In the earliest era, Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla were locked in a fierce battle for control of the soon-to-be electrical empire. At the center ofthe conflict was the pitting of two technologies against each other: Edison's direct current (DC) and Tesla's alternating current (AC). Although all major utility electricity is now AC, due to its superior efficiency in generation and transmisison, at the time the laymen watched with fascination at the struggle between the two titans. Because of these battles and other industry difficulties, antique shades of the era were made to accomodate both gas and electricity. This gave rise to the gas-electric fixture, and their associated shades.
The effect on glass shades
Although the tungsten filament of an electrically powered light burns at three thousand degrees celsius, the glass enclosure of the bulb and the vacuum environments means that the heat drops off rapidly away from the tungsten source as compared to gas fired lighting. During this time, the electrical antique lamp shades could be made smaller and thus fit more snugly to the bulb. Gas powered lighting produced an open flame that in principle heated and cooled the antique glass lamp shades much more, stressing the material, thus necessitating the use of larger enclosures for the gas antique glass lamp shades.