In the past, the value of some lighting pieces has gone unappreciated. While the value of some pieces, such as fine Venetian chandeliers or grand silver candelabra, appear obvious objects of value, others such as early candlesticks have been melted down and lost. In a more modern setting, pieces from the 20th century which have fallen victim to changing tastes have also been readily discarded without realisation of their collectible potential. Lighting is first and foremost a functional field, but this has made it no less collectible or valuable.
Valuing Antique Lighting
Although antique lighting has employed many different materials, most notably silver, glass and copper, some of the same principles can be applied to all pieces from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Condition is important but should be consistent with age. Many pieces, particularly those made from silver, are likely to be marked which can tell you their age; on good antique pieces you would expect, for example, scratch marks in the drip-tray from use but not significant repair work. In the 19th century sometimes pieces like candelabra were converted to oil lamps for convenience; this may not decrease the value of the item in itself but a poor conversion job certainly would. Besides this, buyers should beware adjustments and work where visible, especially mismatching styles.
For primarily functional pieces with a regular form, such as glass candlesticks, embellishments can be very desirable to collectors. A colour- or air-twist in the stem can enhance the value of a piece considerably. These sorts of pieces were also often made in pairs which can be near-essential to achieving their potential value. Paired silver items will be of identical design but with differently placed hallmarks. Because of this enhanced value, matching hallmark locations can be a sign that one was in fact cast off the other. Similarly, pieces with multiple parts such as candelabra should bare matching or contemporary hallmarks.
Valuing Modern Lighting
The value of modern lamps and light-fittings depends on somewhat different criteria. Unlike antique pieces, modern electric lights will have particular fittings; replaced bulbs should be consistent with the original bulb type to appeal to collectors. Like antique pieces, however, a maker’s mark remains all important. Art Nouveau lamp shades generally bare either a signature or stamped tag as is the case for many 20th century pieces. Original packaging is also a novelty of the 20th century with particular appeal to collectors and will go a long way to boosting the value of post-war pieces. This is closely related to the design. Valuable 20th century pieces will typify their designer or design era – rarity is secondary to form, colour and functionality that characterise period fashion. To an extent this extends to Art Nouveau lamps also as pieces featuring female figures, which were icons of the movement, generally fetch the highest prices although the quality of sculpture is also central in this case.