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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Pumping carbon dioxide deep underground may trigger earthquakesScience News, January 9th
In the central and eastern United States from 1970 to 2000, geologists recorded a yearly average of only 20 quakes of at least magnitude 3.0 — enough to sway a hanging lamp. Then the count rose: Between 2010 and 2013, 450 such temblors hit — a rate ...Read more
Wildside Festival kicks off the year at Centaur TheatreMontreal Gazette, January 8th
A large hanging lamp swings back and forth, creating moonshine-on-mermaid moments. While Ferrier strums his guitar and stage whispers his lines, a pin drop silence reigns in the room. Coming and Going is a mind massage, hypnotic and possibly soporific ...Read more
Destiny2 at Raven Woods a study in custom touchesThe Province, January 8th
The False Creek Design Group adds curves with a retro-inspired red chair and in a hanging lamp over the dining table to make an impact. Toy has a lot of advice for homeowners about how to approach the design of a new space. Firstly, keep it ordered and ...Read more
24HRS LIGHT Is A Mobile Lamp With No Cable Or ButtonPSFK (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
Mystery of SKINNED GOAT HEADS left hanging from lamp postDaily Star, November 6th
THE BIZARRE and gruesome sight of a pair of skinned goat heads hanging from a lamp post has left New York residents baffled. By Andy Wells / Published 6th November 2014. The skinned goat heads were left hanging from a lamp post GRIM DISCOVERY: ...Read more
Hanging Lamp Glows Blue Thanks to Bioluminescent BacteriaPSFK, 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
Numerouno: A sleek hanging lamp made from cardboardGizmag, November 17th
German designer Johannes Kiessler has created a sleek hanging lamp which is predominantly made from cardboard. Dubbed, Numerouno, the eco-friendly lamp weighs a mere 600 g (21 oz) and features a low consumption 21 W fluorescent tube that emits ...Read more
A Wooden Hanging Lamp Shaped Like a Giant Nikon 14-24mm LensPetaPixel, February 13th
Check out this DSLR Paparazzi lamp, created by Spanish design studio Monoculo Design Studio. It's a wooden hanging lamp that's shaped like a gigantic Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 camera lens. It's completely handmade and comes with a detachable lens hood...Read more