Much as I love many of the lamps from some of my trade vendors (Visual Comfort, Currey & Co., Bungalow 5, Robert Abbey, etc.), I have a serious fascination-bordering-on-fetish for vintage glass lamps. Were I able to indulge it more, it would be a predilection that could easily bankrupt us. Hand blown Murano lamps from makers like Barovier & Toso or Venini and vintage French opaline — particularly that cerulean blue — send my pulse racing. They also fit in well with my old, old house that has probably seen every decorating fashion under the sun since George Washington.
Vintage Glass Lamps: Murano, Opaline, Etc.
Loosely quoting Wikipedia (which, sadly, though we have an old Encyclopedia Britannica, is where I get most of my info these days) Murano’s reputation as a center for glassmaking was born when the Republic of Venice, fearing fire and the destruction of the city’s mostly wooden buildings and bridges, ordered all glassmakers to move their foundries to the island of Murano in 1291. There, glassmakers kept a monopoly on high-quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including optically clear glass, enameled glass, glass with threads of gold, multicolored glass, and milk glass. The Republic partially lost its monopoly at the end of the sixteenth century because of some glass makers who let the secret be known in many European countries.
Opaline glass was made in France from 1800 to the 1890s, reaching its peak popularity during the reign of Napoleon III in the 1850s and 1860s. The glass is opaque and comes in white or in brightly colored shades of green, blue, pink, black, lavender and yellow. The glass has a high lead content which defined it as “demi-crystal” or semi-crystal. The primary influences on this style of glass were 16th century Venetian milk glass and English white glass produced in 18th century Bristol.
My two Barovier lamps that I got on 1stDibs for $250 each. They have the “silver inclusions” that sparkle like crazy. (When I saw this listing, I thought the seller must have wandered over from eBay. 1stDibs is not an antique bargain basement. A pair of lamps like these usually for more like $1-$2K on 1stDibs. I don’t think I’ll ever find a deal like that again.) They are the jewelry of my room.
Chandelier from Etsy (seller got it at an estate sale) and lamps from some Texas antiques dealer I found after Googling every possible combination of “twisted glass lamps.” These aren’t Murano, but I love them all the same.
My photo. One of a pair of French blue opaline lamps I scored on Ebay for $180 total!!!! from my Fall 2016 One Room Challenge. Of course, it took a lot of doctoring to get it to this state, so the price definitely came up to about $190 each.
But I was inspired to write this post this week I came across a project on Houzz by designer Laura Lee that made me feel like I’d found a soul sister. Not only does she incorporate high-quality vintage brown furniture (see my post about what to buy and how to use it here) into current design to perfection, but she has vintage glass lamps everywhere!
Tons of designers love lamps like the above. Of course, when I went looking for images, I couldn’t re-find nearly as many as I remember seeing, but this should give you a good idea. 😉
Where to Find Them & What You’ll Pay
If money is no object, then head over to The Inviting Home, which imports new, drool-inducing lamps from Murano at about $1,750 a pop. I’m trying to ferret out their source, but I haven’t found it yet. Or head over to Swank Lighting, founded when owners Ed Sexton and Doug Taylor happened across a long hidden, nearly forgotten treasure trove of handblown vintage Murano lamps from the 40s, 50s and 60s and bought the entire inventory. There you’ll pay $4-$5K per pair.
A little rich for your blood???? Mine too. Seriously, the best places to find remotely affordable lamps are at auction (Set up a search term for yourself on LiveAuctioneers.com. Missed my post on the how-tos of auction finding and buying? Read it here.), eBay, and Etsy. Sometimes there are a number available at auction, but as of this writing, pickings are slimmer than I usually see.
I’ve had some lamps I love at more affordable prices bookmarked for a while, just in case a use popped up. I’d love to just buy them up to have them (That is what an financially-ruining obsession is about, right? Buying things you don’t need and can’t afford?), but since I don’t have a current use, it’s your lucky day!
And P.S.: Don’t pay attention to lampshades or bases. Those can be swapped out. In fact, should you buy any of these, head over to my post on my amazing sources for custom lamp shades to create the perfectly unique-nobody-but-you-have-it lamp!
1. / 2. / 3. / 4. / 5. / 6. / 7. / 8. / 9. / 10. Get these puppies put on a lucite base and they’d be stunning. / 11.
My personal favorites are numbers 2, 4, and 9. Let me tell you, it hurts a little bit to divulge the links!
What do you think? Any takers? If you buy one of these, please let me know in the comments! I’d love to think I brought a little glass jewelry into your home.
‘Til next Saturday!
Awwwww, as of the end of the day Saturday, numbers 1, 10, and 11 were sold and no one told me who bought them! Sad little tears…. But I hope you enjoy!