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    

Vintage/antique Coleman Bq Bracket Lamp - Wall Mounted Gas LanternMagnificent Pair Of Victorian Matching Wall Bracket Oil Lamps P/c & GwoYorkshire Oak Style Pair Of Carved Wall Lamps By Wren Craftsmen Mouseman SchoolVintage Nickle Coleman Wall Lamp Model Bq 2 Mantel Gas Lamp/lanternVintage Coleman Wall Lamp -Vintage Verichron Starburst Wall Clock W/ Matching Sconces Mid Century ModernVintage Silver Plate Low 2 Sconce Candelabra/candle Holder Floral Central FlamePrimitive Tin Mirrored Sconce / Barn-fresh / Aafa / NrRare Pair Signed Quezal Hooked Feather Shades For Handel Tiffany SconcesAntique Vintage O.c. White Co. Industrial,adjustable Wall/ Desk Mount LampJielde Wall Lamp Sconce Loft Chrome Since 1950 Design Jean-louis Domecq FrenchUnique Antique Ladies Salon Lighted Sconce Sign Metal W/reverse Etched GlassVintage Industrial Bryant Wall/desk LampAafa Mirrored Glass Tin Candle Wall Sconce 1800c 1900 C Circa Antique RareAntique Brass & Stained Glass Arts & Crafts Style Outdoor Sconce Light FixtureArts & Crafts Copper Wall Sconce With Amber Colored Leaded Glass, No Wall PlateSmall Pair Early Style Reproduction Wall Tin Metal Wall Candle Sconces ColonialBox Lot Of 10 Sconce Wall Bracket Back Plate Mounts Oil Gas Lamp Cast Iron B&hVintage Antique Art Deco Wall Slip Shade Lamp Light Fixture Sconce1950s Mid Century Danish Modern Teak Sconce Light Wall Lamp Vintage Le Klint Era(2) Vintage Rococo Style French Brass Acanthus Wall Sconces Old Parlor LampsPair Small Antique Perko Marine Ship Gimbal Wall-mount Oil Lamps C1920sMackenzie Childs Hard Wired Wall Sconce Lights Ceiling Set Lot 3 LightingAntique Late 18th C - Early 19th C Antique Mirrored Glass Tin Candle Wall SconceMiniature Dollhouse Artisan Eugene Kupjack Silver & Gilt Bronze Sconces Set 1:12Vintage Industrial Light - 9kg Solid Copper Explosion Proof-ceiling / Wall Lamp3 Deco Amber Honey Frosted Glass Slip Shades, Sconce / Hanging Slipper FixtureVintage Wall Mount Scissor Lamp Sconce Light Fixture Mid Century Accordian Nos!19c German Dresden Porcelain Mirrored 3 Light Candle Sconce W/ Cherub Figure NrTrench Art Qf 1 Pounder Gun Pom Pom Brass Shell Case Candle Wall SconcePair Vintage Colonial Reflective Reflector Mirror Tin Wall Hanging Candle SconceAntique O C White Bracket Mount Wall Telescoping LampLg Vintage Hollywood Regency Old Brass Hanging Crystal Prism Old Wall SconceWac Lighting Ws-7230-bn Large 30-inch Elementum Vanity SconceMixed Lot Of Progress Lighting Access Lighting Bronze Wall Sconce 520070 V10(2) Vintage Rococo Style French Brass Acanthus Wall Sconces Old Parlor LampsPair Of Virginia Metalcrafters House Of Burgesses Electrified Brass Wall SconcesPair Antique Vintage Markel Electric Wall Sconces Dept. 56 Little Town Of Bethlehem 13 Pieces Oasis, Rocks, Gate, Wall, LampsAafa 9" X 11" Tin Plate Style Wall Sconce - 19th Hanging Tin Candle HolderVintage White Milk Glass Art Deco Wall Sconce Lamp Shade Ribbed ShellAntique Mission Arts And Crafts Bungalow Double Wall Sconce Green Slag GlassGoodyear Neon Wall Clock. Old Shop Sign Truck Rat Rod Car Bar Lamp Light Very Early Whale Oil Lamp Table Or Wall Old LightingFantastic Rare Pair Large Antique Art Deco Brass Cobra Snakes Wall SconcesIndustrial Steampunk 6 Edison Bulb Light Wall Mount Lamp Water Pipe Wall Sconce Antique 19th Century Tin Candle Sconce Aafa1910s Arts And Crafts Hammered Copper Or Thin Brass Candle Holder Wall SconceGenuine Ford Parts Oval Red Neon Clock Sign Wall Lamp Light Man Cave GucPair Vtg Ornate Bronze Gothic Victorian Figural Church Sconce Candelabras Divine French Antique Boudoir Ormulu Bronze Acanthus Wall Sconce Light Lamp 1880Lot Three (3) Antique Art Deco Cast Brass Wall Sconces. Light Fixtures. Stamped Set Of 3 Antique, Wall Sconces In Origional Paint2 Dollhouse Miniature 3 Electrical Colonial Wall Sconce By Clare-bell Brass Antique 19th Century Primitive Hand Wrought Tin Wall Sconce Candle Holder6-leds Solar Power Pir Motion Sensor Wall Light Outdoor Waterproof Garden LampPair Vintage Crystal Prisms Murano Venetian Style Chandelier Wall Light SconcesVtg Cast Iron Swing Arm Wall Mount Oil Lamp Holder With Mercury Glass ReflectorCir 1900 Bradley & Hubbard Kerosene Lamp W/wall Bracket & Glass Mirror ReflectorAntique Art Deco Green Glass Slip Shade Sconce Pair Chandelier Fixture C1920s