Ask a Worthologist: Victorian Tulip Lamp

This Victorian-style tulip lamp looks old, but the label and wiring say it’s from the 1970s.

Mary T. has a hanging lamp she found at a thrift shop. It looks old but has parts that look new. She contacted WorthPoint’s Ask a Worthologist service to inquire about this piece, its age and the maker. Her inquiry was forwarded to me:

“We have a couple of thrift shops near me, and I often go in and browse on my way to work. Normally there isn’t a lot of good stuff, but I have picked up some really good deals. I spotted this lamp in a box that had just come in. It looked Victorian with a mottled onyx glass shade, but the wiring looks pretty new and it has part of a label that reads ‘Wray.’ I only paid $20 for it, so I think I’ll keep it and hang it in the front hallway. I’m more curious about its history than anything else. Is it old and just been rewired?”>/i>

Here’s my response:

Based on the images, your lamp does have a Victorian look to it, but it actually dates to the 1970s. The mottled glass shade is what’s now called “slag glass” by dealers and collectors. It was first called “marble glass” in original catalogs of the Victorian period.

The name derives from the belief that these colors were achieved by adding “slag” from iron-smelting works to the glass. Slag glass is often found in caramel, purple, brown, green and blue. British company Sowerby patented its recipe for its purple slag glass in 1878.

The label on this lamp is most likely for Christopher Wray, a company established in 1964 in London. It originally specialized in antique oil lamps and lighting and then branched into traditional lamps, modern lighting and furnishings.

As far as I’m aware, this company is still in operation, offering a range of high-end decorative furnishings and lighting.

Hanging lamps like yours became popular in the early 1970s when demand for originals in the style of Tiffany, Jefferson, Handle and Wilkinson forced values to levels where it was cost effective to reproduce them.

Demand for lamps in this style peaked in the 1990s and has since declined, along with the demand for most other late-19th to early-20th-century Victorian and Edwardian-style decorative items.

Values for these tulip-type slag glass lamps tend to be very modest in the current market. Still, you did quite well with your purchase, as comparable lamps often go for more than $100 at auction.

Mike Wilcox, of Wilcox & Hall Appraisers, is a Worthologist who specializes in Art Nouveau and the Arts and Craft movement.

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