Antique and vintage lamps span a broad spectrum, including well known-styles like Victorian and slag glass and leading names like Tiffany, Handel, and Aladdin. Values vary greatly and reproductions abound, so do your homework.
The earliest type of lamp, the oil lamp, was a simplistic vessel with an absorbent wick. These were mass-produced starting in the 19th century. Manufacturers typically made the metal base and burner and bought the glass from another manufacturer.
Between the 1840s and the early 1900s, during the Victorian era, oil lamps and candelabras coexisted with early electric lamps. In 1908, Aladdin Industries Inc. created the Aladdin lamp, an oil lamp so bright that no one was able to find another oil lamp that compared, despite Aladdin's offer of a thousand dollars if they could.
The biggest development in lamps toward the end of the 1800s was the growing popularity of ornate glass lampshades, often with floral imagery. Lamps started to become a decorative, rather than just functional, item. Slag glass (pressed glass with milky stripes), for example, became popular in England and America, and many lamp companies used it to create beautiful lamp shades.
Decorative table and floor lamps reached the height of their popularity in the U.S. in the first two decades of the 20th century, spurred by the success of Tiffany and its Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau competitors, like Handel.
Tiffany and others made bronze and gilt-bronze lamp bases, often simulating plants or tree trunks, and floral or other naturalistic art glass shades with colorful iridescent glass pieces leaded together. Thousands of Tiffany lamps were made, and they're highly collectible today. By the 1920s, many lamp designers had started to shift to Art Deco styles, characterized by angular lines and squared glass or paper shades. Also common were deco figural lamps with stems made to look like people.
Post WWII, mid-century lamps tended to be simpler (Eames), sillier (TV lamps) or groovier (lava lamps). Eames lamps were often made of metal and featured long, narrow, and sometimes wavy stems. Lamps with multiple bulbs and lamps with swiveling necks were also common. So-called TV lamps were also popular in the 1950s. Typically made of ceramic or plaster, these were backlit decorative sculptures created in the shape of animals, people, and plants...
Lava lamps, an icon of the 1960s and 70s, combined heated wax, chemicals, and dyed water to create lava-like imagery. Lava lamps were used more for decoration than for lighting.