Hanging lamps, which include everything from single pendants to elaborate chandeliers, have illuminated interior spaces for thousands of years. The earliest examples were made of clay and fueled by animal fat. Later, oil was used to fire bronze or glass fixtures.

By the Middle Ages, metal chandelier-like fixtures called polycandelons were hung from the ceilings of churches and other public structures. Some held bowls filled with oil and wicks while others were designed for candles. In fact, the word “chandelier” has its roots in the Latin word for “candle.” Early chandeliers and polycandelons were usually attached to a rope or cable that was looped through a pulley so they could be lowered to be lit, raised into position, then lowered again so candles and wicks could be snuffed.

Gas lamps, which were introduced in the early 1800s, are normally associated with sconces, but hanging gas lamps, called gasoliers, were also used in homes that could afford this newfangled technology. Next came kerosene in 1857. Again, even though we associate kerosene lamps with the chimney-style table lamps made by Aladdin and others, the fuel was also used in hanging Victorian Era lamps.

Because of the heat generated by kerosene and gas lamps, flames were contained by etched glass of various colors—from frosted white to ruby red to multicolored slag—while the lamp’s hardware was typically made of brass. There must have been concerns at the time about the safety of kerosene lamps since they were often advertised as being “non-explosive,” but kerosene lamps burned brighter than gas, so for many the risk was worth it.

While some 19th-century kerosene lamps hung from chains, others were suspended by decorative rods that, in turn, supported a pair, or pairs, of arms. Because kerosene chandeliers required daily maintenance, a pulley was often secreted inside the decorative plate that also hid the lamp’s connection to the ceiling.

As the 20th century dawned and electricity became ubiquitous, many gasoliers and chandeliers were retrofitted. Other types of new hanging lamps included the so-called pan chandeliers, whose light sources were placed at the ends their multiple arms. Then there were hanging lamps that featured Tiffany-like shades over their lights, or clear prismatic glass shades that sent light streaming throughout a room.

The advantage of new hanging lamps, as opposed to retrofitted ones, was that their designs weren't constrained by the presence of fire. Thus, Art Nouveau lamps could be as naturalistic and free-flowing as their designers demanded, while Art Deco fixtures in brushed metal could be accented by shades shaped like bongo drums. By the 1950s and ’60s, the space-age look of Mid-century Modern lamps suggested starbursts and flying saucers, which would hover benignly over nuclear families enjoying meals at their Danish modern dining tables.

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Recent News: Hanging Lamps

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Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for Saturday, 25 Jul 2015
VolcanoDiscovery, July 25th

Big Lake (United States) (141 km SE from epicenter)(no details): Felt chair vibrating while sitting in it then saw hanging lamp swinging, Dogs are very restless and barking at 'the nothing', ears are hissing loudly. (via EMSC). Anchorage (United States...Read more

The Warshawsky Collection
Maine Antique Digest, July 24th

I bought the best lamp [at the sale],” she said, noting that a Nasturtium hanging lamp and a 20" Poppy lamp, which usually bring over $100,000, were bought at “reasonable” prices of $81,250 and $75,000. “There was depth and strength in the sale, except...Read more

Bar review: 166 Bar & Bistro, Horsforth
Yorkshire Evening Post, July 23rd

furniture thrown in for good measure - long spindly-legged red leather bar stools and raised brown leather seating areas among the hustle of tables and seats; a red uplit spirits wall behind the bar; and slender red hanging lamp shades above the...Read more

A Graceful Blend
Moneycontrol.com, July 22nd

2 Much more than a simple hanging lamp, this gorgeous chandelier (designed by the French glassblower Patrick Crespin), is made up of several blown glass chrysalises suspended from a brushed chrome structure. An array of colours and adjustable cables ...Read more

MiPow Playbulb Color
PC Magazine, July 10th

You also may not be able to comfortably fit the bulb into many light fixtures, unless it's a floor lamp or a hanging lamp that uses a standard E26 or E27 screw socket. With an adapter, it can also fit E40, E14, and B22 sockets. Similar to the Awox...Read more

Renewed Resources: Recycled-shade hanging lamp
LancasterOnline, February 4th

Recycled paper that resembles the coarse cardboard egg cartons we're all familiar with forms the shade for this hanging lamp found at MoMA's online store. Italian designer Valentina Carretta's pleated chandelier-style lamp, for Seletti, has a...Read more

24HRS LIGHT Is A Mobile Lamp With No Cable Or Button
PSFK (blog), December 9th

The mobile LED lamp has a minimalist design and can function as either a table or desk lamp or as a hanging lamp. The lamp doesn't require cables or buttons and offers a simplified lighting system without sacrificing functionality. The power comes from...Read more

Hanging Lamp Glows Blue Thanks to Bioluminescent Bacteria
PSFK, October 13th

During certain seasons, in some parts of the world, it's possible to witness ocean waves glowing a hypnotic shade of blue. Keen to share this experience with others, Dutch designer Teresa van Dongen has created a bioluminescent table lamp called Ambio...Read more