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The benefit of Glass Student Shades on antique oil lamps

Diagram showing oil lamp with student shade and chimney


......using Student Shades

Glass Student Shades are a favorite style of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In the early 1800’s, candles and oil lamps were the primary source of light. Oil lamps produced marginal light from a burning wick, inside a glass chimney.  The development of glass student shades improved light output thereby improving the quality of life for many Americans. The shape of these shades focused light downward for tasks. The glass student shades glowed when lit, producing a much larger light, than was previously available with a burning wick. Better light at night made dark night’s bearable and increased productivity. It was now possible to read and do hand-work at night. Rooms were brighter making evening activities possible.  This dramatic change encouraged the lighting industry to seek advances in lighting.


Components of an oil lamp

19th century oil lamps were made of brass, glass or nickel. Central to these lamps were oil burners. As time went on many of these oil burners were replaced with electric burners or converted to electricity. Glass chimneys, used to control drafts and protect flame, resided on top of burner and were held in place with tines. Tripods or spiders and shade rings were then positioned on burners to hold glass student shades.


Student Lamp Shade Ring for electric lamp

 Tripods10" Lamp Shade Spider for Glass Lamp Shade

 Lamp Shade Rings10" Lamp Shade Ring to be used with oil or electric lamp burner

Measuring Glass Student Shades

Glass Student Shades, a much-enjoyed antique style, were originally used on student lamps and oil lamps. Made of glass, in various bottom diameters, with 10” and 7” being the most common sizes. Shades are measured across bottom. These glass shades are blown in a mold which causes slight differences in thickness of glass and actual bottom diameters. The bottom diameter, referred to as the fitter, is typically slightly under-size, this is normal due to glass blowing techniques.

Measure shade holder, if available, to determine sized needed. If lamp will need both holder and shade: 9” – 10” lamp bases typically use 10” student shades while smaller 8”-9” bases often use 7” shades.

Cased Glass Lamp Shade crafted from two layers of glass 10" Lamp Shade with Hand Painted Pink Roses Embossed White Melon Lamp Shade with  10" fitter Tam Shape Glass Lamp Shades with hand painted roses
Green Cased Glass Hand Painted Roses Embossed Melon  Tam O'Shanter shape 

Differing Types of Glass Student Shades

Glass student shades glow when lit, intensifying the illumination produced by a burning wick or light bulb. White shades produce a generous overall light, while cased glass types direct light downward offering better task lighting. Most are used on table lamps, however there are also some hanging lights and floor lamps which use this style. Shapes are smooth or embossed, such as hobnail and melon patterns. Tops are flat or crimped. Standard white glass student shades present a neutral appearance and are economically priced. Cased glass styles, typically dark green sandwiched with white glass, complement brass lamps. This style was very popular on early student lamps. The most decorative are those of the Victorian period, each is a work of art, hand painted with beautiful floral designs.

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