How to buy antique lighting and what to look out for
In our expert guide, learn what to look out for when buying antique and vintage lights and lamps, and whether it's possible to rewire them
An antique lamp can add character and atmosphere to any room, but some are in better shape than others. Before you make a purchase, it's best to check whether any damage can be repaired and whether the rewiring can be done. Here's our expert guide on how to buy antique lights and lamps – and what to look out and what questions to ask of the seller for when you do.
How to buy antique lighting
Look for quality, heavy fittings with fine, crisp castings and good design. Avoid flimsy lights. They may be pretty but are often uneconomical to restore.
Check out our guide to how to create perfect lighting in your home.
How do you know if an antique light is ok to use?
Dents, kinks, missing or broken parts, splits in seams. How do you know if a piece of antique lighting is beyond salvation? Dents and kinks can be impossible to iron out successfully so, if you want a perfect result, don’t touch it. Missing or broken parts, especially crystals, are expensive to replace. Even lights in apparently good condition can have hidden problems such as old flex stuck in the arms or previous ‘cowboy’ repairs.
What is the potential cost of repair for an antique light?
Professional restoration is expensive. At Fritz Fryer, rewiring an average table lamp costs around £90. This includes using all new electrical components, cotton covered twist flex plus a light clean and a PAT (portable appliance testing) safety test. A modest five-arm brass chandelier costs around £300-£400 for the same treatment but repairs will add to the cost.
How to rewire a vintage light
Most antique lights will need to be rewired. Regulations change, as do the quality specifications of components, and lights sold ‘in working condition’ should have a PAT test sticker not more than two or three years old. Never rewire a lamp yourself. Have your lamp properly rewired by a fully qualified restorer and then get it PAT tested.
More like this
Written by Margaret Lewis, Lighting Restorer at Fritz Fryer
Spring savings- 6 issues for just £9.99
Spring savings! Get 6 issues of Homes & Antiques magazine for just £9.99 and find the best antiques fairs near to your home, plus practical guides to updating rooms and more.