George Barsony ceramics - Black Lady lamps - History, Fakes & Value!

Hello! I’m super excited about this Retro Roadshow blog post!

Today I’m chatting about Barsony Ceramics, most well known for their ‘Black Lady lamps’.

I must warn you, it’s a dangerous post, as I’m sure by the end you’ll want to begin collecting them too! It’s definitely not for those on a budget.  These lamps can be seen priced in the thousands of dollars! So if you have one gathering dust in your garage, dig it out and start to appreciate their beauty, because that’s what these ladies are. Beautiful!

Barsony ceramics is an Australian company founded in the 1950’s by Husband and Wife team George and Jean Barsony in a factory in Guildford near Sydney.

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions

Though these were mass produced, they were then sold as cheap and kitsch, but oh how times have changed.  Due to their once cheapness, many have been turfed making those left, highly collectable.  They have now become recognised beautiful examples of mid century design.

I currently own five Barsony lamps, two of them are great examples of pieces that aren’t what you would expect to find and I’m thrilled to be able to share them with you.

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions

Barsony didn’t just produce matte black ceramics.  They also produced a range of White ceramics which are considerably less common than the iconic black pieces.   They are often found with a sticker called ‘Silver Cloud’ or Venice’

My Ballerina lamp shown above, stamped FL-49, is also made in the matte black glaze, and one of the more common shapes. However it’s unusual to find one in the lustre white and pink glaze, so I treasure it dearly!

The other piece is one that I’m sure most people wouldn’t believe if I told them was also a Barsony Silver Cloud lamp.  It’s a great example of pieces that they made that weren’t strictly black ladies.

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions

If you are searching online for an authentic Barsony lamp BEWARE!!  Do your research before buying.  The name Barsony has become a name that is now associated and used when any vintage black ceramic is being sold, even if it’s not actually made by Barsony.

An example below often pops up on eBay listed as Barsony when they are in fact Japanese pieces.  Kalmar pieces are another name that is commonly mistaken with Barsony.  You can tell the difference by their more pointy and angular features.  Barsony ladies are more rounded and smooth.

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions

Most Barsony pieces are stamped underneath or to the back with their model number for example, F, FL, GL, H, HL, L, U, T, V, followed by a number.  Once you start to familiarise yourself with these markings, you’ll notice that they represent the type of piece it is, for example L stands for lamp, HL stands for head lamp, V for vase etc.

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions
Sometimes it can be signed George Barsony too!

But again beware, because yep, there are reproductions floating about of the original Barsony pieces, and they have tricked many people.  Once you have put both next to each other though, you will be able to tell the difference.

Two known fake model numbers include – H19 and FL27!

On the reproductions, The model number to the base is often more rough, jaggedy and messy than the originals, also the paintwork will be have less detail than normal.
Jean Barsony used to sit at the kitchen table of an evening, hand painting each piece and hand making the shades, so the fakes have a lot less love put into them.
Old electricals can also help you determine the new from the old, however don’t rely on it.  It’s not a difficult job to add old electrical fittings to a new lamp.

The biggest giveaway is if you find one that’s at a weird medium price of $100-ish and no one’s bought it yet, you can begin questioning it’s authenticity right then.  These pieces are so iconic and so well known, the chances of finding a piece at a price like that is rare.  Not impossible, but rare.
If someone thinks it’s junk, it would probably be priced a lot cheaper!
Either the seller knows what it is or they don’t.  So anything at that middle range weird price is questionable.  It could either mean it’s damaged, or a reproduction so really check it out.   If you have a smart phone, perhaps google the model number underneath to see if anyone’s posted in a forum about it!

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions

What can you expect to pay for a genuine Barsony lamp?

The more common pieces go up and down in value all the time, depending on trends and how flooded the market place is.

The points that are used in valuing all vintage pieces; Subject matter, rarity, and condition are always key factors.

In Barsony lamps cases, lookout for missing earrings, paint wear, restoration, breaks/chips/cracks, whether it has it’s original shade, whether the model number is uncommon, and even how detailed the painting is!

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions
(This lady is missing her earrings, but hope to find replacements at some stage!)

Two of the same model numbers can have different artwork to each other.  The starburst pattern seems to be more popular than others and can fetch a higher price than the same piece with a more standard design.

The pieces with more hand painted detail tend to fetch a higher price too!

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions
(This bongo playing lady has a lot of handpainted work, making it quite desirable.)

So if you’re wanting to have a Barsony piece in your home, you may want to start with a ballerina! They are so beautiful and still affordable.  You can pickup a Ballerina lamp depending on the above pointers, for anywhere from $150-$400.

The more rare pieces, especially the nodders and Silvercloud figural pieces, I’ve seen sell in the thousands! Some listed over $2000!

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions
Lamps that have their original shade will always be at the higher end of the budget, but if you aren’t fussed by that and have another shade you can use, you may pickup a bargain as collectors are always after everything original and complete!

Keep in mind that despite often being listed as such, not all ribbon shades are original to Barsony.  They were very popular in the era, and none are marked by their maker.  The one pictured here with my Barsony beach babe has it’s original shade.  The colours usually match and it’s a shape regularly used by Barsony.

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions
The Silvercloud non lady piece from earlier, has a red twisty ribbon shade, however it’s not a Barsony shade.  It would have been put on it at a later date.

Out of the four from my collection that I have shown here, only two require shades, however don’t fit where I have them sitting as the roof of my loft slants in.  So sadly for now they’re shadeless until I move and have a better location for them.

George Barsony black lady lamps history fakes reproductions
I hope you’ve enjoyed another Retro Roadshow post! If you are new to this regular segment, click here to learn more about amazing pieces of yesteryear!


Trish Hunter
Trish Hunter - Founder of The Vintage Post, mid-century design collector, passionate about history, dog lover, excessive !!! user and smiler.
Trish Hunter


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Comments (18)

  1. You warned us, you really did, but goodness if it isn’t true. I suddenly have a powerful urge to one day own one of these timelessly marvelous lamps (though, at those prices, I would have to keep it far, far away from the energetic pets!).

    ♥ Jessica

  2. I am jealous, I only have 3 pieces. My first piece cost me a few dollars oh so many years ago, but today you don’t seem to see too many pieces around and when you do they are sooooo expensive, but worth it.

  3. Have just brought my first Ballerina lamp. She’s white, a colour I don’t see around too often but on proud display. Look forward to getting more. Great article.

  4. Wow…I bought one Saturday for $5 ..unfortunatly she only has one ear ring and has had repaired foot…original shade…but she is magnificent…I bought her because she looked unusual and stunning and I needed a lamp for spare room…I think I bought a bargain

  5. Trish, I have a lamp with two boys on it marked ‘cotta twins S154’ underneath. This has been painted on. I’ve had this lamp for nearly 15 years. Cord has been replaced. Do you know what this is?

  6. Trish, following on from my previous comment, inspecting the cord shows the plug has actually got old pins, not like todays plug at all, However, it does say Clipsal on it. Thanks again, Cindy.

  7. Hi im am happy to say i have my nanna’s and its beautiful she brought it when she was about 20 years old she passed away last year at 101 years of age it will always be treasured in my home ..

  8. i have a black lady appears to be a lamp she is holding a drum like bowl on her head , she has impressed numbers at her rear side 36154 , she has a plastic ball type necklace , is she a barsony ???

  9. My mother has a lamp that has FL.1 on the bottom. I have enquired on a face book page, one person says it isn’t Barsony, another says it is (as she had sold one the same that was signed). My mother wants to sell it, and we have no idea of the value. Is there any way of finding out if it could be genuine?

    • I also have one of the lady lamps labelled FL.1. Have you been able to find out any more information? Is it real or replica? I have posted to the Facebook page and hope to here more there too.

      • I too have an FL1, she is rare to come by and can’t confirm if she is A fake or not, I did however come by her in an antique book this was before I questioned her authanticity and can’t now find this same book grrr

  10. Hi I have a barsony FL48 with a red skirt original shade and one earing missing, otherwise in good condition no chips of breaks or cracks although I think new wiring. I havnt been able to find a picture of one with a red skirt plenty of pale yellow ones , Im trying to find some idea of value. Can you help. regards Lynette

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