We LOVE LOVE LOVE tole chandeliers! What a delightful way to add light, color, and whimsy to a room! Here’s a little primer on tole chandeliers and how to buy them with confidence at the flea market.
Bring a little springtime indoors with a blooming chandelier featuring sculptural daisies, tulips, and roses painted in bright colors. These decorative lights, imported from Italy since the 1930s, are called “tole chandeliers” for the ornamental paint on their metal flowers and leaves. They are flea market regulars and might be the most affordable vintage chandelier you can find.
Gathering Spring Bulbs
Buying a chandelier at the swap meet can be scary if you’re in the dark about what to look for. Just keep these tips in mind and you’ll be an illuminated tole shopper!
Tip 1 Put The Petal To The Metal
Old tole is made with stiff, heavy metal. Newer tole fixtures from the 60s and 70s are made of thinner, bendable metal. Either is fine, but if you are buying a newer lamp, use this tip to haggle for a lower price. If you discover a tole chandelier that still bears its maker’s tag and is stamped “Made in Italy,” you probably have the real McCoy.
Tip 2 Get To Know The State Of The Art
The petals of tole flowers should look hand painted with good attention to detail. The surface should have a shiny appearance, like that of enamel, and some chipping is to be expected. Watch out for petals and leaves that have obviously been repainted. (If the paint job doesn’t bother you, use that “flaw” to get a better price.)
Tip 3 Check The Flowers’ Power
When buying anything electrical at the flea market, you’ll want to inspect its wiring. If the plug is older than the one on your grandmother’s side-loading toaster, you might have to get it rewired, which costs anywhere from $25 to $150. Many vendors have already rewired the lamps themselves. If this is the case, be sure to test the chandelier or get a business card from the vendor in case there are any problems.
What To Pay
Tole chandeliers cost anywhere from $50 to $250 at the flea market. Cheaper ones tend to be smaller, less ornate, or in need of total rewiring. For a working chandelier with pretty flowers expect to pay around $150. Not a bad price for any chandelier!
It’s easy to see the chandeliers that the vendors hang in their booths, but don’t forget to keep an eye out for any resting on the ground or in boxes. These may have some imperfections, but you may just get a steal!
A Taste of Tole
If you don’t have the need for a whole chandelier, consider getting smaller tole floral items such as candleholders and lamps. Ornate floral candelabra start at around $20. Tole table lamps look like a bouquet of flowers in a pot with the lamp sprouting from the center. They start at about $40 and make great bedside lamps. If you are lucky enough to find them, painted flower napkin rings are a sweet taste of tole for as little as $5 each.