What are the Different Types of Oil Lamp Shades?

T. L. Childree

Oil lamp shades are a decorative way to reduce the glare produced by an open flame and there are several different types to choose from. Genuine antique and American-made shades are often very difficult to find and also quite expensive. Student shades help to focus light downward, and hand-painted oil lamp shades feature colorful designs on a white background. Angle-style, oil lamp shades have a unique, two-piece design while ball shades have a globe-shaped appearance. Melon, cranberry, frosted, and white shades usually have a simple design that helps to reduce glare.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Genuine antique oil lamp shades can date back as far as the 18th century. These shades are often constructed of materials such as cranberry glass, satin glass, mother of pearl, and milk glass. A very limited supply of these shades remains in existence, and finding one for sale may be quite difficult. American-made shades were produced by glass factories during the early 20th century. The most popular American-made design is the Aladdin model, and modern versions of this shade continue to be produced.

Student oil lamp shades are designed to focus the light in a single direction for reading or working. Their hemispherical shape gathers and reflects light to the surface below. The top of this shade fits over the lamp chimney and often has a crimped appearance. Hand-painted shades feature colorful designs such as floral arrangements, portraits, and landscapes. These designs are usually hand-painted over a white background and reheated to prevent chipping or flaking.

Angle-style oil lamp shades are designed specifically for use with angle lamps. The wick of this lamp is positioned at a right angle to the base. This angled design helps reduce the underneath shadow produced by ordinary oil lamps. Angle-style shades are made up of two separate components that fit together to form the chimney and shade.

Ball shades feature a globe-shaped design that dates back to the mid 19th century. These shades work well with oil lamp styles such as globe, banquet, and Gone With the Wind lamps. A wide variety of designs and glass types are used to make ball shades. Melon shades have a unique ribbed appearance and may be utilized with Aladdin, banquet, and student lamps.

Cranberry oil lamp shades give the appearance of authentic cranberry glass but are far less expensive. These shades create an attractive, subdued lighting effect when used as the primary light source. Frosted shades are more transparent that other types and typically produce a soft, bright light. White shades cause the lamp to emit a warm, subtle glow during use.

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