Several companies were making beautiful lamps in the late 1890s and early 1900s, including Handel of Meriden, Connecticut. Handel began in 1885 as a partnership between Philip J. Handel and Adolph Eydam. They opened a showroom in New York in 1890 where their products were displayed. Handel bought his partner out in 1893 and changed the name of the business to Handel & Company in 1898. By 1903, the name had changed again to The Handel Company.
Handel’s wife, Fannie, ran the business after his death in 1914. William H. Handel, Philip’s cousin, took over after Fannie stepped down in 1919. In 1936 the company closed the New York showroom, and by 1941 they were officially out of business. While the life of the business was relatively short, they produced some of the most beautiful and desirable lamps collectors seek today.
It’s All About That Shade
Handel opened its showroom in New York in 1890, and in 1904 produced its first leaded glass lamps akin to those being made by Tiffany during the same period. However, this firm is most noted for its reverse painted shades made in competition with Pairpoint’s “Puffies” along with many others by other lesser-known brands.
“Fine examples of the company’s landscape, Aquarium, and other unusual motifs have garnered prices up to $85,000,” shared Martin Willis of James D. Julia, Inc. in Warman’s Antiques & Collectibles regarding Handel’s reverse painted lamp shades.
Handel also produced “Teroca” shades. These were usually made with slag glass, and came in an array of beautiful colors with metal overlays in varying patterns. Handel wasn’t the only company making this type of metal overlay shade at the time, but theirs are among the best.
Just as you’ll find with other antique lamp brands, the value of Handel examples largely lies in the shade whether it’s a reverse painted, leaded, or Teroca example. Most Handel lamps sell at auction in the $10,000-20,000 range when in excellent condition.
Handel did manufacture metal bases and having a Handel shade paired up with a Handel base certainly doesn’t hurt anything in terms of value. But, it’s good to remember that Handel didn’t start making their own metal bases until 1902, and customers could provide their own base to be fitted with a shade, so very valuable authentic shades have been found many times on non-Handel bases.
Handel Lamp Marks
The most common mark is HANDEL LAMPS PAT’D NO. 979664. “If your lamp has this mark then you almost certainly have an authentic Handel lamp,” reports HandelLamps.com. “Not all Handel shades are marked. Ones that were done for special orders were marked but not numbered. Others that had flaws and imperfections were kept by employees or given away; those shades were not marked at all. It is also possible that during 100 years that the mark faded or was removed during cleanings.”
HandelLamps.com not only provides information on Handel products, including images of hundreds of authentic lamps in varying styles but will help in evaluating a Handel lamp via email.
Other Handel Wares
In addition to lamps, Handel also made other metal products including tobacco containers, desk items, bookends, and candlesticks. These items were made beginning in 1906, but production was limited since the main purpose of the Handel foundry was to make lamp bases. While these objects, part of the Handel Ware line, are not common, they aren’t extremely valuable in comparison to the lamps.
Several glass vases that are also considered rarities were made by Handel. “The most common Handel vases are acid etched. They have a clear and yellow glass. All the vases are marked with a Handel signature and a number. The number represents that specific design type. It doesn’t have anything to do with the number made or the value,” according to HandelLamps.com. These usually sell for less than $500 each.
Other vases and lidded jars can sell from $500 up to several thousand apiece. A middle of the road line was produced by Handel called “Teroma.” These are usually nature-based in their themes, and collectors will sometimes run across coordinating reverse-painted lampshades with the similar décor. Some Teroma pieces were signed by the artists, and most are numbered. Vases that sell for the most have a dark background and beautifully painted scenes similar to portrait pieces.