Pair of antique lamps is worth $1,500

CURIOUS COLLECTOR

December 19, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen | Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen,Contributing Writers Solis-Cohen Enterprises

I have a pair of lamps marked "B. Gardiner, N. York" which were in my mother's family for years. Each is pedestal-shaped blackened metal with gold decoration and has a single arm holding a metal burner with a glass chimney. Did they originally burn whale oil or kerosene, and what's their age and value?

Your bronze and gilt lamps in the classical taste probably were made in Birmingham or Manchester, England, circa 1825 to 1840, and bear the mark of their original retailer, Baldwin Gardiner (1791-1869), a merchant and silversmith in early 19th-century New York. The lamps copy a design patented in 1780 by Armee Argand, of France. "Argand" lamps had circular wicks and glass chimneys, and relied on a central draft of air to keep the flame burning bright. They used vegetable oil or whale oil (not kerosene) and produced less smoke and more light than candles or simple wick lamps.

The glass chimneys and dangling glass lustres on your lamps appear to be replacements. As is, the pair is worth about $1,500, and if their chimneys and lustres were original, together they could fetch about $3,000, according to antique-lighting dealer Charles Neri, of C. Neri Antiques, 313 South St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19147, (215) 923-6669. To replace the current chimneys with vintage ones would cost about $500 per lamp, while authentic old crystal lustres would cost another $300 per lamp, if they could be located, Mr. Neri says.

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Have a question about an antique or collectible? Write to the Solis-Cohens, P.O. Box 304, Flourtown, Pa. 19031-0304, enclosing a clear photo of the whole object and all marks. Photos can't be returned. Although personal replies are not possible, questions of general interest will be answered in this column.

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