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How to determine if your shade is hand painted

The art of painting glass lamp shades was developed in Europe around 1730ís. Common themes include patterns, floral, collages, and landscapes. Painted shades could use acrylics, watercolors, or oil based paint. Early tradition placed the painting on the exterior of the shade. In the late 1890ís a new style of reverse painted was popularized by Philip J. Handel.

Handel style lamps were originally produced by The Handel Company from 1904 to 1941. All shades at the Handel factory were sand blasted and hand painted by skilled artisans. The technique used at the plant is known as reverse painting where the shade was placed upside down and the paint was applied within. Today, the art form lives on and reverse style shades are produced using similar techniques developed by Philip Handel.

Example of Handel Style Lamp (Item 69735C)
Handel Style Lamp

Other painted shades include tam, student shades and fonts. After the paint is applied the shade is fired in a kiln at over 800 degrees Fahrenheit. Firing the shade fuses the paint with the shade for durability and longevity. An easy way to determine if the paint had been fired is to use an eraser and gently rub the paint. Paint that has been fired in a kiln will not rub off.

Example of Hand Painted Shade (Item 04424)
Hand Painted Shade

Another way to decorate a glass shade is to stamp or decal a printed image on the shade. The process for decal is similar and requires the shade to be kilned. Decals are less expensive than hand painting and the images are more precise.

Example of Hand Decorated (Decal) Shade (Item 010101)


To determine if the shade has decal or hand painted decoration requires close examination. Painted shades have the paint texture applied to the shade. Decals are almost perfect and the repetition of attributes is uniform. In other words, the images have no flaws and every leaf, pedal, or cherub is exactly the same. Skilled glass painters can create images of near perfection.† There maybe a subtle difference between each leaf and the subtleness provides the character and originality of the hand painted shade.

Click here for a complete list of hand painted shades.
Click here for a complete list of hand decorated shades.