Opium Lamps
Detail of the base of an opium lamp decorated with a cloisonne depiction of a still life.
Close-up of the base of an opium lamp showing enamel adornment.
Detail of the vent of an opium lamp made from openworked paktong. The floral motif includes a grasshopper.
A brass opium lamp with openwork in floral and bird motifs. The threaded base indicates that this lamp once had a lid that would cover it while not in use and protect the glass chimney from damage.
This close-up of the base of an opium shows a delicately rendered engraving of a contemplative couple sitting under a tree.
This opium lamp for traveling could be covered and protected during travel by means of a threaded lid. The lamp was made from paktong, a nickel-like alloy.
A brass opium lamp made up of interlocking "shou" (longevity) symbols.
This opium lamp with extensive cloisonne ornamentation was sourced in New Orleans.

Heat, not light, was the purpose of an opium lamp. Opium was meant to be vaporized, not burned. The drug vaporized at a relatively low temperature, so an opium lamp was an oil lamp whose purpose was to harness and channel just the right amount of heat upon a very small surface. This is the reason for the very distinctive funnel-like chimney. Opium lamps were made from a vast range of materials, most commonly brass and paktong (a nickel-like alloy), as well as glass. The cheapest opium lamps were mass produced from molded glass, while some of the most luxurious examples were meticulously crafted from layered Peking glass. Vietnam was once known for its highly ornate opium lamps of chased silver.

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