Glass light shades are used in two ways: one is merely decorative, the other is a long term investment. It is not surprising to find glass lamp shades used as decoration because of their distinctive, noticeable quality. A turn-of-century bankers lamp shade is a good example. However, most people do not realize that glass lamp shades are also items of fine art which can be collected. When these shades are broken, the owner should do one of two things. He or she can commission a replica from a glass maker, or undergo the harder art of restoration.
If the glass light shades do not contain many other components such as beads (in beaded lamp shades), mica flakes, brass or iron, and has a relatively simple shape such as a cone or cylinder, it can be made anew by a glass blower or glass maker. The key is to find the right kind of glass that matches or approximates the color of the original. Glass blowing is an ancient art and many people continue to do it today as a hobby. It should not be difficult to find a skilled artisan willing to make a replacement shade for the right price.
If the glass light shade is much more heterogeneous than a single piece of glass, then the work of a specialized restorer is required. They will charge quite a lot given that glass restoration is a length, slow process demanding of attention, knowledge, know-how, dexterity, and material resources. That being said the best pieces to restore are the lamp shades that have intrinsic historical value such as the Tiffany lamp shades.
Some repair jobs are quite simple and only require swapping in one new piece of glass for an old, broken or dirty one. The usual case is that enough damage has accumulated such that the restorer will have to do many things to get the glass light shade back to its original shape. Firing new or acquiring old glass panes to replace the originals is often necessary.
Moreover, a restorer may be asked to fix the nonglass parts of the lightshade. Old beads can be removed and replaced with new ones. The metallic lining of glass panes can be renovated with the same material. For restoring a Tiffany shade it is usually necessary to create a cast of the original shape so that the new pieces have a scaffold upon which to rebuild the lamp shade.
The reason for restoring such shades is that they have value beyond the raw materials of the object itself. For collectors’ pieces, the engraved name of the manufacturer, designer or artist can be worth much more than the functional or material benefits of the shade. Restoration therefore has a strong monetary if not emotional component for most people who own glass light shades.