Antique lamps are a beautiful addition to any vintage decor. These lamps serve a useful purpose in bringing light and coziness to a room while also complementing your classic decor. But how should you care for your antique lamps so that they enjoy many more years of life? Here's a short guide.
Assess the Materials
Antique lamps are made from many different materials, ranging from wood and metal to glass and tapestry. The first step to proper care is to understand exactly what materials you're working with. A brass lamp, for example, requires different care depending on if it’s solid brass or steel covered in brass.
If you have trouble identifying specific materials — such as specific metal or wood types, gems or glass inserts, or fabric contents — investigate the lamp itself. You may be able to link a particular manufacturer or artist with their preferred construction materials. Knowing the time period of an antique item also helps identify them. For instance, shellac — which is more easily rubbed off than other varnishes — became popular in the second half of the 19th century. This information can inform your care choices.
Clean Materials Separately
Once you identify the parts involved, learn how to clean and polish each separate item. Silver is often cleaned with a simple hot, soapy water solution. Remove tarnish with careful use of modern cleaners. But avoid harsh cleaners on any gems in the lamp's decoration. Wood parts should be polished with a non-aerosol polish, usually of a beeswax base.
If you identify the specific lamp maker, you may be able to look up specific care instructions for their work. The extensive glass on Tiffany lamps, for instance, is best cleaned with soapy water and lemon oil polish.
Take Care When Cleaning
Maintaining any antique furnishings calls for a balance between cleaning power and delicate care. Begin by taking the lamp apart as much as possible and placing all pieces securely on a hard surface. Note the locations of all parts before removing them. With chandeliers, this dissection can be a laborious process, but it protects all the fragile crystals and glass pieces.
Gather the supplies to clean the lamp entirely before beginning so you clean it all on the same schedule. This method also increases the likelihood that you will get everything completed and no parts will be left un-maintained.
Fix Problems Early
As you care for your lamps, take the time to inspect them to look for any problems. With lamps, this inspection should include both condition issues (like cracks or standard wear and tear) and mechanical problems in the function of the light. Damage to the structure or covering of a lamp can grow quickly if it’s used regularly.
Look for signs of rust or moisture issues from the lamp's placement as well as fading from sunlight. Even a simple action like turning fabrics away from the light helps avoid potentially damaging problems from growing.
Generally, you should think twice about trying to restore a true antique lamp on your own. If you notice things like mold growth, extensive fading on fabrics, cracked decorative glass, or wiring problems, consult with an antique restorer before determining if you should tackle the problem alone. Improper restorations or inappropriate replacement materials can permanently damage an item and drastically alter its resale value.
No matter what type of antique styles you enjoy, an antique lamp is a beautiful addition to your collection. By understanding how to properly care for all its parts — both decorative and mechanical — you'll be able to enjoy your lamp for many years to come. Begin with a visit to the gorgeous antique lamp inventory at Regan Lewis Antiques today.