The words “wall lamps” and “sconces” are sometimes used interchangeably to describe lighting that is attached to a wall. Strictly speaking, though, the “lamp” is the thing that provides the illumination while the “sconce” is the piece that physically attaches to the wall.

To make things a bit more confusing, the word “bracket” is frequently used to describe the brass or cast-iron armatures that held kerosene lamps far enough away from walls to keep 19th-century homes from burning to the ground. Some of these brass wall brackets had arms that were designed to swing so the lamp could be moved in a 180-degree horizontal arc. Cast iron kerosene lamp wall brackets from the period often had double joints, and many of either type had reflectors behind the lamp’s glass chimney, to aim light in different directions.

Other types of brackets were known as doubles, which allowed two kerosene lamps to be mounted to the same fitting. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the kerosene nightlight, a miniature wall lamp made by Silver & Co., among other companies. In a kerosene nightlight, the bracket doubled as the reservoir for fuel, which often hung by a hook on the wall. The glass shade at the end of the delicate curved tubing ranged from pearl white to cobalt blue.

Early gas lamps from the late 19th century were also mounted to walls. Some of these gas lamps, which were called gasoliers, had three arms, each bearing a fixture. The brass work on these sconces was often ornate and detailed—floral patterns and curlicues were common motifs. The tubes that delivered gas to the various lights on a fixture were frequently designed to look like slender vines or branches, while the keys that regulated gas flow were cast to look like leaves or tassels.

Shades for gasoliers tended to be simple, ranging from a single glass bowl to a candle-shaped chimney to an upturned flower such as a lily. One especially interesting class of vintage gasolier was equipped with a nickel-plated brass oculist bracket, which swiveled vertically as well as horizontally and took its name from its use by opticians, as well as doctors and dentists.

When electricity started to become more common at the end of the 19th century, electrical wall lamps followed. In particular, the invention of the tungsten light bulb in 1907 spurred the demand for lamps of all sorts, including those attached to walls (tungsten used half the electricity of earlier incandescent models). Lamps from this era were designed in the Arts and Crafts style, as well as Mission and Art Nouveau.

One of the great things about electricity was that wall lamps could now have shade instead of just a chimney, which by definition had to point up. Shades could now point down, il...

One of the most visually arresting periods for vintage wall lamps and sconces was Art Deco. During this era, some lamps were all shade, with the fixture hidden from view behind it. White glass sconces with painted black decorations were typical. In other cases, such as for bathrooms, frosted glass shades were paired with rust-resistant, chrome-over-cast-brass fixtures.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Lampworks

The Lampworks

Lamp collector and dealer Dan Edminster has put together an incredible reference site on antique lamps and related … [read review or visit site]

Texans Incorporated: The History of a Lamp Company

Texans Incorporated: The History of a Lamp Company

Mark Stevens has created an impressive living memorial to Texans Inc., a 20th century Texas manufacturer of ceramic… [read review or visit site]

The Lamps of H. G. McFaddin

The Lamps of H. G. McFaddin

Bruce Bleier's tribute to the Emeralite and Bellova lampshades made from Czech glass and popularized and distribute… [read review or visit site]

Fairy Lamp Club

Fairy Lamp Club

This incredible site is a stunning showcase for Victorian and contemporary fairy lamps, a style of lamp with a glas… [read review or visit site]

Gas Pressure Lanterns, Lamps and Stoves

Gas Pressure Lanterns, Lamps and Stoves

Terry Marsh’s beautiful showcase of gas-pressure lanterns, lamps, stoves, irons, and heaters from the 1920s o… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Fantastic Pair Of Pink Vintage Art Deco 1930’s Glass Chrome Clam Shell Wall LampAntique Hand Hammered Copper Wall Candle Sconces Roycroft Vintage Lincoln Lmc Art Deco Cast Hanging Ceiling +2 Sconce Lamp Slip Shade SetRare Antique Coleman Quick Lite Wall Hanging Lamp Lantern Sunshine Of The NightAntique Art Nouveau Brass Piano Sconce-candlestick Holder-swiveling Hinge-rare!Aafa Blacksmith Forged Wrought Iron Metal Rooster Double Candle Sconce Old PaintVtg German Dollhouse Miniature Gold Ormolu Soft Metal Wall Mirror Candle SconceAntique Victorian Cast Iron Cherub Wall Mount Bracket & #2 Queen And Oil LampAntique Victorian Decorative Brass Angle Lamp Sconce Wall Mounted Converted Antique Two Italian Abstract Carved Wood Gold Gilt & Gesso Wall Sconces Shelves2x Victorian Brass Wall Bracket Plates For Sconces Lights Lamps 1800s MirroredVintage English Antique Victorian Maiden Brackets SconceHummel Wall Plaque 17 Pc Lot Mail Is Here Wall Vase Sconce Holy Water Fonts WowVintage Industrial Gooseneck Wall Mount Oc White Era Lamp Signed FariesGoebel Hummel Lot Of 4 Wall Sconces /wall Pockets/ Holy Water Fonts FigurinesSet Of 2 Antique Cast Iron Art Deco Slip Shade Wall Sconce Theater Light (2) Art Deco Matching Slide Panel Light Sconces4 Antique Art Deco Nouveau Champagne Glass V Slip Shade Lot! Wall Sconce3 Vintage Cast Metal Wall Sconce Art Deco Lamp Lot 2 Double Riddle Design +1(2) Roycroft Arts & Crafts C 1915 Hammered Copper Brass-plated Candle Sconce YqzPair Of Beaded Sconces ~ Pair Vintage Italian Gilt Tole Crystals Prism Wall Sconces Hollywood Regency Pr. Mid Century Brass Vintage Light Fixtures Sconces Starburst Spot Beam WiredAntique Ditmar Wall Hanging Oil Lamp Glass Brass(1) Pr.shabby Vintage Cherub Wall Candle Sconces W/ Roses,crystals & CrownExquisite 19thc Antique French Toleware & Delicate Pink Glass Wall Light SconcesVtg Wall Or Desk Lamp Michael Lax Lightolier Lytegem Mid Century Orb Eyeball; Nr2 Weighted Sterling Silver 3 Arm Candelabra 608 Grams, Sconce Only, No BaseArroyo Craftsman Berkeley Exterior Wall (2) + Post Lamp (1)Pair Antique Cast Iron Arts Crafts Outdoor Wall Light Sconces Mission/gothicGoebel Hummel Lot Of 5 Wall Sconces /wall Pockets/ Holy Water Fonts FigurinesAntique B&h Bradley&habbard Cast Iron Wall Scone W/ Bracket Oil Lamp Holder Pat.Goebel Hummel Lot Of 2 Wall Sconces /wall Pockets/ Holy Water Fonts FigurinesAntique Tin Candle Sconce Rare Style Crimped Aafa PrimitiveVintage Wall Sconce Pair Fiberglass 3 Tier Metal Mid Century Modern Light LampVintage 1920's Riddle Co Art Deco Sconces From Movie Theatre, Set Of 2 Vtg Dressel Railroad Caboose Lamp Light Lantern Wall Mount W/bell And Extra Tank2 Vtg Deco Neon Sign Chrome Border Sconces For Theater Marquee & Chrome DinerTiffany Style Stained Glass Wall Lamp Sconce Shade 17" - ButterfliesPair Gothic Style Cast Metal Wall Sconces LightsAladdin Nickel Model 6 Oil Lamp Wall Bracket Fixture 1932 Swing Arm With StopsLalique Crystal Champs Elysees Wall Sconce Maple Erable Leaf Design Vintage Industrial Wall Light-military Brass Lamp With Cage & Glass Dome E27 40wTwo Antique Cast Iron Outdoor Light Fixtures Sconce Candle Impressions Flameless Candle Wall Sconces W/ Timer Set Of 2Beautiful Vintage Old Brass Wall Sconce, Fixture, Light, ChandelierVintage Cast Iron Kerosene Oil Lamp Swing Arm Holder With Wall MountAntique, Primitive Tin Candle Sconce4 Porcelain Pull Chain Wall Sconce Lot Of 4 Vintage Dollhouse Furniture, Dresser W/mirrow, Wall Shelf, Lamp, VaseDollhouse Miniature Solid Brass Hanging Mirrored Wall Sconce - Nrfp ElectrifiedVintage Porcelain Wall Sconce With Milk Glass ShadeAladdin Lamp Aluminum Font Caboose Wall Bracket Model C Nashville Nickel BurnerVintage Glass Eagle Oil Lamp Beaded Chimney Metal Wall Sconce W/ Tin ReflectorGoebel Hummel Lot Of 3 Wall Sconces /wall Pockets/ Holy Water Fonts Figurines" Holy Shxt " Home Wall Lamp Art Work Helmet Arai Bar Neon Light Sign Tn050 E972Mid-century Danish Modern Candle Holders Wall Sconces Metal & WoodPair Gold Italian Gilt Candle Wall Sconces Wheat Sheaf Toleware/glass CandlesAntique Vintage Art Deco Slip Shade Sconce - Glass Slip Shade Frosted Lot Of 3Antique Perko Ship Wall Mount Brass Lamp Lantern Maritime Oil Kerosene Boat