Best Banker’s Lamps

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

54 Models Considered
10 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
118 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best banker’s lamps

Lighting is an important element of any desk environment, and one way to improve your available light without breaking the bank is with a banker’s lamp. Around since the early 1900s, these lamps offer a classic design with the added benefit of taking up little desk space.

Simple to operate and maintain, a banker’s lamp works equally well as a source of light to work by or as an attractive warm accent light. If you are used to the classic brass base and green shade of a banker’s lamp, you may be surprised by the wide variety of styles, shades, and sizes that are now common with these lamps.

Our buying guide examines all the key considerations and features you will need to take into account when shopping for a banker’s lamp, including price. When you’re ready to buy, don’t forget to check out our picks for the best banker’s lamps on the market.

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For office use, use light bulbs with a color temperature range between 3,500K and 5,500K in your banker’s lamp.

Key considerations

Style

While the classic banker’s lamp has changed little over the past hundred-plus years, there are now a variety of other styles to choose from. The most common styles of banker’s lamps are traditional, modern, and Tiffany-style.

  • Traditional: The traditional or classic banker’s lamp – a metal single-support base with a green glass shade – is still the favorite. Some manufacturers also now sell these lamps in a range of shade colors.
  • Modern: Some banker’s lamps have broken out of the traditional mold with a variety of designs and color schemes that offer more modern or industrial styles.
  • Tiffany-style: Tiffany-style banker’s lamps can be recognized by their often intricate (and sometimes pricey) stained-glass shades.

Some banker’s lamps have simple lines, while others are more rustic or feature intricately carved bases. Your best strategy when selecting among the various banker’s lamp styles is to consider the décor of the room where you will place it.

Illumination

Some banker’s lamps are designed to hold two bulbs, while others are designed for one bulb. Two bulbs will usually produce more light and also produce light over the whole length of the shade. Some banker’s lamps are also restricted in what type and size of bulbs they can use.

Height

One of the benefits of a banker’s lamp is its compact footprint. They typically don’t take up much space on a desk. But the one size aspect where these lamps can differ a bit is in their height. If you are planning on using a banker’s lamp on a desk, height can be a significant factor in how comfortable the lamp will be to use. The bottom of the shade should be positioned right at your eye level. Everything from your own size to the height of your chair to the height of the lamp itself needs to converge to maximize comfort.

Banker’s lamps start out at around 12 inches tall and can reach up to 20 inches. The average height for a banker’s lamp is 14 to 16 inches.

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For Your Safety
For maximum safety, only go with a lamp that has been certified by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Edison Testing Laboratories (ETL).
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Features

Lamp shade

As mentioned, a banker’s lamp shade is no longer relegated to one lovely hue of green. Shades can now be found in a range of styles and colors. While the majority will be some form of glass – frosted is common – some will be made from plastic or even materials such as mica.

The color of the glass is important for everything from aesthetics to the amount of light that filters through, but the quality of the glass is also key to finding a lamp that will last for years. The glass of a shade should be thick enough that it will not easily break. At the same time, it shouldn’t be so thick and heavy that it can overpower a lighter base and cause the lamp to tip over.

A shade should also easily adjust so that you can direct where the light goes. The shade should also have enough tension on the ends that it will hold its position until you reposition it. Often a shade will feature bolts on either side to adjust the shade tension.

Lamp base

Traditionally made from bronze, banker’s lamp bases are usually crafted from some form of metal these days. Manufacturers seeking a traditional appearance will then add a brass coating. Some bases are relatively plain in design, while others feature intricate carvings. Some also feature a distressed or worn finish, giving the banker’s lamp more of an antique feel. Whatever its makeup or design, the base should be heavy enough to keep the lamp stable.

Pull string/switch

The classic banker’s lamp design has a pull string, a simple metal chain that is used to turn the lamp on and off. While some banker’s lamps use more common rotary switches to power on and off, the majority of these lamps stick with the original pull-string design.

Be careful when using these pull strings, as some are very springy and can snap back up to strike the lamp shade. If the pull string has a larger metal element on the bottom – also common – the string can crack the shade if it hits it just right.

Power cord

The electrical cord should be long enough to easily reach an outlet. If you’re using the lamp on a desk, this typically isn’t much of a problem. The average length for a banker’s lamp power cord is five to six feet.

Banker’s lamps were first sold as Emeralite lamps, a name which some still refer to them by.

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Banker’s lamp prices

Banker’s lamps start out at around $35 to $40 and can reach up to $70 or more. The average price for a quality banker’s lamp is in the $40 to $55 range.

Banker’s lamps under $40 typically offer a simple build. These tend to be single-bulb lamps, shorter in height than other banker’s lamps, and feature either an inexpensive glass shade or even a plastic one. The majority of lamps in this range offer the classic green shade design.

In the $40 to $55 range, you start to find banker’s lamps that are more ornate. Lamps here are taller – averaging around 16 inches – and can be found in a range of colors. Some cheaper Tiffany-style banker’s lamps can also be found here.

Banker’s lamps over $55 offer a superior build and often more elaborate bases. Intricate Tiffany-style shades are common here, as well as two-bulb designs capable of producing more light and “filling out” a shade better.

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Did You Know?
Original banker’s lamps are highly prized antiques, sometimes fetching over $1,000 per lamp.
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Tips

  • One common complaint with banker’s lamps is the lack of care taken when shipping. This is particularly true for those banker’s lamps that have glass shades. Spend some time in the online comments section to discover if buyers have had shipping problems with a particular lamp.
  • The color of a shade can greatly affect how much light it will allow into a room. If you need the lamp to provide light for the entire room, select one with a lighter color shade.
  • Some light bulbs can lose up to 30% of their light output over time. It’s because of this that some lighting professionals recommend replacing light bulbs every six to 12 months, regardless of whether they have blown out or not.
  • Will you be using your lamp to work or study by? Go with a light bulb that is bright and has a higher color temperature. You should also be sure that the shade is capable of filtering out the brighter light so that it will not shine in your eyes.
  • Some banker’s lamps feature a single bulb that is located in the center of the lamp. Others have a bulb that is located more to the side. If a balanced appearance in a lamp is important to you, try to avoid the latter.
  • To protect your investment, select a banker’s lamp with the best warranty you can find. Warranties for this type of lamp typically run between 30 days and a full year.
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One big plus for banker’s lamps is their ease of use. You typically only need to tug the pull string to turn the lamp on or off.

FAQ

Q. Is color temperature an important consideration when selecting light bulbs for my banker’s lamp?

A. In addition to brightness (wattage), bulbs are also sold in three different temperature ranges (measured in Kelvin). These ranges provide different types of light for different tasks or settings.

  • Soft white (2,700K to 3,000K): This slightly yellow light is what most of us grew up with. This type of bulb is best for living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms.
  • Cool white (3,500K to 4,100K): A bit whiter than a soft white bulb, this bulb is often used in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Daylight (5,000K to 6,500K): Often depicted as the light you will find at noon on a cloudless day, this type of bulb is great for reading and accent lighting.

Q. Can I use any type of light bulb with banker’s lamps?

A. This will vary lamp to lamp, but, generally, yes. Manufacturers today often design banker’s lamps with LED bulbs in mind. LEDs run much cooler, last longer, and can provide more light in a lamp of this size than incandescent bulbs. You should take care if using incandescent bulbs, as higher-wattage incandescent bulbs can produce enough heat to actually damage a banker’s lamp, particularly if it uses a plastic shade. When deciding which type and size of bulb to use, adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Q. Do banker’s lamps require any maintenance?

A. Not really. One of the great aspects of banker’s lamps is that they offer a simple design that requires little upkeep. You should plan to dust the lamp every couple of months with a soft cloth and perhaps a bit of furniture polish to shine up the base. You can also wipe down a glass shade with a little glass cleaner if it starts to collect grime or fingerprints. Before attempting any lamp cleaning, though, be sure the lamp is off and the bulb is cool.

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