Trying Not to Diffuse the Message About Vintage Torchieres

I made a mistake a few years ago, and I don't want you folks to make it, too.

I remembered this for the first time this weekend, when I found a lamp that I adored-- which was one I don't expect everyone to appreciate as I do. (Yes, we all know I have Lamp Addiction. There's a Twelve Step Program I don't care to participate in at this moment.)

Anyway, at Denise's Antique Mall in Indiana, PA, on Saturday, I found a gorgeous lamp for $20 which I felt needed to come home with me. One of brass and a rainbow-hued lustrous, Carnival glass style... One which made me happy just to see it. (And, honestly, at $20, plus decent wiring and lightbulb, I knew I would find the right place for it.)
The lamp, in spite of its very art glass feel, (it's made by a company called Rembrandt I'm still researching) came with a milk glass torchiere shade. And the moment I looked at it, I remembered...

This is not a torchiere. This is a regular table lamp, with a DIFFUSER which needs a fabric shade.

And a quick examination on eBay told me that many folks are very confused about the history of these nice old lamps with diffuser shades. I realized in an instant-- you folks deserve to know the truth.
A diffuser is a milk glass shade that was common in the early electric lighting periods, and was used specifically so very bright bulbs would bend and soften light in lamps coming through fabric shades. Meaning you would plop a fringed, drum or bell shade right over it.

Basically, so you would get consistent solid light, and you all would not see one very bright light bulb!

Today, at antique stores and thrifts, we're left with the base lamp, and the diffuser-- because so many fabric shades met unpleasant fates. So to our modern eyes, it looks like we're buying a torchiere lamp, with a built-in milk glass shade...

But it's not necessarily true! The diffuser would almost act as a harp, allowing you to set a wider, fabric shade over the top of it.

I'm not thrilled with the color of the shade I currently have, but it gives the feeling of what a proper shade might look like over a diffuser.
About two years ago, I had bought what I thought was a nice torchiere light with a milk glass shade. I knew I wanted to put a real harp and fabric shade on it... and gave the milk glass piece back to the charity organization to resell...

Only to discover that was part of the original lamp I'd kept.

So, I figured, what is The Thrift Shop Romantic if not a way to help others head off the goofy mistakes I made, and help preserve the best in vintage goodies?

This new lamp is now residing in my bathroom-- which I know sounds wholly unromantic, but actually, is perfect because I neglect no room, and there are many rich Carnival glass colors already in it!

For more information on diffusers, click here.

My lightbulb moment gave me a whole new perspective on vintage lamps. May you have your own lightbulb moment this week!

Cheers, folks!

7 comments:

Vonlipi said...

Every time I read the word torchiere, I flinched. I flinched because it did not sound right! I'm french speaking and such a lamp is a torchere in french. I looked it up and in english it is torchiere. No mistake there, but I'm still flinching! ;)

Jenn Thorson said...

Vonlipi- I do try to do my best, as I greatly value spelling-- it's not guaranteed I will spell things correctly all the time-- I make mistakes like everyone else-- but I do try to make an honest go of it.

What I love about the blog is that folks from all over seem to find a common bond in interesting old items and thrifty goodness.

Sorry to make you cringe, but I'm glad you read past the American spelling of the lamp type anyway.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

How lovely!

Melanie said...

Thanks for educating us. That is a beautiful lamp!

Jenn Thorson said...

Juju- Thanks for visiting!

Melanie- Happy to share info with everyone; you never know where it will make a difference.

Karen Scott said...

Thank you for shedding some "light" on this issue!

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I have a pair of beautiful Rembrandt "torchieres" and when I first saw them I said, "What goofy shades for such great lamps." The shop owner agreed but assured me they were the originals. I bought a pair of more ornate shades but researching Remb lamps I saw so many with these diffusers, I liked the originals more and more. What a hoot to find out they are supposed to have lampshades over them. I probably will never put any on them though...