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The Edison Light Bulb: The ‘Smart Bulb’ of the 1800’s

Edison bulb that transfixed the world as one of the most technologically advanced inventions of its time. In a practical sense, the electric bulb was the ‘smart technology’ of the 1800’s. Fast-forward a century, and the term Edison bulb holds an entirely new meaning.

In present-day design, Edison bulbs are vintage-style incandescent light bulbs with clear glass envelopes and visible filaments. You’ve probably also heard them referred to as antique  light bulbs. Today’s reproductions are modeled after — you guessed it — Thomas Edison’s earliest light bulb productions. The exposed filaments (the string-like wires inside the bulb) are what set the Edison bulb apart from its 21st century counterparts like the LED.

It’s interesting to note that while historians agree that Thomas Edison didn’t actually invent the light bulb, he is credited for bringing the first viable bulb to market — which is probably why he is so often assigned the celebrity title of Inventor of the Light Bulb. And let’s be honest, the Humphry Bulb  doesn’t sound nearly as cool.

Today, when someone characterizes a modern bulb as being an Edison Bulb, they’re usually referring to a handful of common characteristics that these vintage bulbs inspire…

Common Characteristics of an Edison Light Bulb       

  • Simple, rustic design with an Old-World feel
  • Exposed filaments in sometimes intricate shapes
  • Clear glass envelopes
  • A warm glow that’s similar to candlelight and easy on the eyes

Vintage bulbs are often seen hanging from open sockets in restaurants and bars but also show up in contemporary home decor. They’re often displayed inside clear glass pendants over a kitchen island or as part of a rustic dining room chandelier. The warm incandescent glow is soft enough that you can comfortably look directly at it without a harsh glare.

It wasn’t until recent years that the safety and energy efficiency of LED’s pushed these incandescent bulbs out of their first place title. By now you’ve likely heard of the legislation that stops the manufacturing of incandescent bulbs in the United States, but don’t panic quite yet. Edison bulbs fall into the class of specialty or novelty light bulbs, which means you’re free to incorporate all of their nostalgic glory into your design.

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