New Miniature Lamps in BrassBy

New Miniature Lamps in Brass

An American lamp supply company produced a line of new brass miniature oil lamps. Although the new lamps aren't copies of specific old originals, they do resemble vintage miniature oil lamps in general.

There are several distinguishing features which you can use to identify these new pieces. First, none of the lamps are sealed; they can't hold oil or any other liquid (Fig. 9). Of course you can't ask a seller to fill them up with water and watch for leaks, but with a careful inspection you'll see gaps and separations along joints.

The new lamps also have a steel disc in the base virtually never found in vintage metal miniature lamps. The disc is too thin and light to act as a weight. It appears to be used solely to strengthen the base's rim.

Next, look at the filler neck where you would fill the lamp with oil. Filler caps on these new lamps have two prongs which fit matching notches in the filler collar (Fig. 11). Virtually all vintage filler caps are threaded.

All these new lamps come with new brass burners with wick raising knobs marked "Nutmeg Approved." Vintage Nutmeg burners were produced by Plume and Atwood Manufacturing. But no authentic pre-1940 Nutmeg wick raising knob was ever marked Nutmeg. Any knob with a mark that includes the word Nutmeg is a reproduction lamp part. Of course, a new burner doesn't necessarily mean the lamp base is new, but new burners should make you extra cautious.

A variety of new glass shades are available to fit the new miniature lamps. A prospective buyer, though, should inspect the base and burner before concerning themselves with the shade. It's a lot easier to detect the new bases and burners. If the base and burner are new, it's almost a certainty the shade will be new. Many more old metal bases than glass shades have survived. Would anyone really put a genuinely old shade on a new base when old bases are relatively easy to find?

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Fig. 1 A group of five recently manufactured miniature metal lamps. Four are solid brass, one is nickel plated brass. All are shown with new glass shades. Wholesale prices for the lamps ranged from $11 to $14 which includes the shade and burner.

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Fig. 2 New solid brass miniature lamp with embossed butterflies around the font. Height as shown 4¼″.

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Fig. 3 Closeup view of the butterfly pattern from Fig. 2.

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Fig. 4 New solid brass miniature lamp with emobssed Christmas designs around the font. Images include Santa Claus, candy canes, bells, stars and gift packages. Height as shown 5″.

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Fig. 5 Closeup view of the Christmas designs on Fig. 4.

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Fig. 6 Catalog illustrations of vintage miniature brass lamps as shown in a ca. 1906 Plume Atwood catalog. Without burners, the lamps measure about 6″ tall. Available plain or embossed.

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Fig. 7 New solid brass miniature lamp with an embossed floral pattern. Height as shown 5½″.

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Fig. 8 New miniature nickel plated solid brass finger lamp with embossed flowers. Height as shown 5″; without burner 3½″.

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Fig. 9 All the new lamps shown in this article have the paper label shown on the left. The label warns the lamps are not sealed and will not hold oil. Under the label is a flat metal disc, arrow, which appears on each new lamp. These discs are rarely, if ever, used on vintage miniature lamps.

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Fig. 10 View of a typical vintage miniature metal lamp base. The metal discs shown in Fig. 9 on new miniature lamps are virtually never found on bases of vintage miniature metal lamps.

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Fig. 11Close-up view of the filler cap used on all these new miniature metal lamps. The filler cap has two prongs which fit two matching slots in the filler collar. A half-turn of the cap locks it onto the collar. The great majority of filler caps on vintage miniature metal lamps are threaded (inset).

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Fig. 12 The wick raising knobs on the new metal lamps are marked "Nutmeg Approved." No old authentic Plume Atwood burners have this mark.