What is a Vintage Holophane?

Vintage Hologphane from Brass Light GalleryThe term "Holophane" is used generically to describe clear molded glass or crystal shades and globes with parallel or crosscut prisms. Vintage Holophanes (circa 1890s-1950s) are outstanding examples of mid-twentieth century industrial art. The crisp clean lines create a beautiful glow when illuminated. Holophane glass was invented in the 1890s and was made in many shapes, sizes and patterns to provide specific types of illumination.  The term "Prismatic" is an alternative term for Holophane glass. Holophane glass is a beautiful choice for industrial lighting. 

The name Holophane was coined by French scientist Andre Bondel and Turkish born engineer, Spiridion Psaroudaki in the 1890s for their newly invented glass. They described the glass in the 1896 US patent #563,836 as having a "luminous appearance over its entire surface... entirely shining," and "having great beauty as well as illuminating power." According to the Holophane Company's website, the term was "derived from the Greek word 'Halos' meaning whole or entire and 'Phanein' meaning to appear or to seem. Thus the word 'Holophane' was defined as to appear completely luminous."

This highly engineered glass was initially made in France in the 1890s. The glass was designed with parallel prisms or ribs on the interior and exterior in order to refract and reflect light, thereby preventing the absorption of light. The engineering provided optimal illumination with little glare. The greater amount of lead used in older glass provided sparkle and life. The glass was originally made for both gas and electric illumination. During the dim gas/electric era in which Holophanes were invented, they were truly state-of-the-art performance lighting.

For the most part, the glass was made by companies under the name Holophane. The Holophane Company was founded by Otis Mygatt in 1896 in London to manufacture "illuminating appliances." At one point, there were three companies under Mygatt's majority ownership with the name "Holophane":  the Holophane Glass Company in the USA, Holophane Ltd. in Britain and Holophane Company in France. There is still a Holophane company in business in the USA today.

At Brass Light Gallery we sell only original vintage Holophanes, primarily circa 1920s - 1950s. These decades-old originals, salvaged from amphitheaters, naval yards and other industrial buildings, are increasingly hard to find. They provide great task lighting for kitchen islands, tables and lofts. Each of our industrial pendant lights are fully restored and rewired for modern use. View our Holophanes available for purchase here.