The first shade I ever fell in love with was a Holophane.
It was a real beautiful asymmetrical number, probably originally for an industrial application, meant to direct light at an angle when mounted from a wall bracket. The thing looked like a glass Hessian helmet. I bought it, took it home and put it on an old bridge lamp. It has been a real conversation starter for sure.
Holophane is one of the one of the oldest manufactures of lighting in the world. Founded in London in 1898, they used the joys of science and mathematics to direct and amplify what little light carbon filament bulbs put out. These beauties were crafted out of borosilicate glass, a tough, hardworking medium used in everything from cookware to telescopes optics.
This type of glass allowed Holophane to produce shades with precise prisms, helping reflect and refract light, casting light evenly in all directions, without creating dark spots or glare.
Around the Depression, Holophane had to make a choice as a company: stick with their industrial line, which supplied shades to factories and warehouses, or commit more fully to their burgeoning residential line. They chose to stay with their industrial roots and it paid off. Every time you walk into a Costco or indoor stadium, or onto a manufacturing floor, you are more than likely stepping under the light of a Holophane.
Their brief foray into residential shades produced some gorgeous results: clear glass shades that are delicate and striking, whose function enhances their form. One of my favorite parts of Holophane shades is the way bulbs look in them. Keep in mind these are often CLEAR glass shades. Clear glass shades with stiletto prisms. When you look at them from the side you can’t even see the shape of the light bulb… only a ribbon of light.
It’s just pretty.
They even look great from below. The prisms give the inside of the shade an almost silvered effect. Even your standard clear light bulb looks sharp in these shades.