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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YMS students turn trash into fashionSeacoastonline.com, March 27th
“I thought why not make a hanging lamp that I could put over my bed? So I hot glued plastic spoons around a green soda bottle and added the lighting," Bogue said. "The lamp has a green tint, but other colored plastic bottles can be used to make other...Read more
Gujarat's Champions of Kerala CuisineThe New Indian Express, March 26th
“Being a multi-cuisine restaurant, we have not themed the décor but we have added antique Thooku-vilakku (hanging lamp) in front of one of the columns and two elephant caparisons are hung in the two corners that suggest that this restaurant offers...Read more
Milwaukee gets a new design gallery at the Mobile Design BoxMilwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 9th
The "Shop Light" seems inspired by a dad's work area but could be at home in the best room in the house, too. The handy hanging lamp can be removed and rehung on a faceted wall mount, which doubles as a showplace for a pretty, red, cloth-covered cord...Read more
Inge Lehmann: “A Small Solid Core in the Innermost Part of the Earth”Scientific American (blog), March 8th
“The hanging lamp swayed. It was very strange. My father came into the room. “It was an earthquake,” he said. The center had evidently been at a considerable distance, for the movements felt slow and not shaky. In spite of a great deal of effort, an...Read more
Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for Friday, 6 Mar 2015VolcanoDiscovery, March 6th
Kailua-Kona (United States) (5 km S from epicenter)(no details): No swaying of the hanging lamp. Sharp jolt. (via EMSC). Kailua-Kona (United States) (5 km S from epicenter)(no details): It was a sudden boom/jolt with very short aftershock, It seemed...Read more
Luz Flashlight is a Multi-purpose LED Light that Offers Premium Performance in ...Press Release Rocket, March 2nd
The real appeal of the Luz Flashlight lies in its all-purpose design. In just seconds, this product can be converted into a standing light source on a rigid tripod (Luzpod), a hanging lamp with an integrated hook and drop line (Luzhook), or a LED...Read more
Renewed Resources: Recycled-shade hanging lampLancasterOnline, 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
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